Exercise Tips for NPH patients

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By Trish Bogucki
Guest Blogger

One of the most frustrating aspects of NPH was the curtailment of physical activities.  Before NPH I was an avid gym goer and loved the Advanced Step class.  Before that I was a line dancer and folk dancer- I even performed with a Yugoslav folk dance troupe in NYC.  When NPH made it difficult to walk unaided most of those fun activities went out the window.  I now regard my exercise program as a critical component to my recovery so I will outline what I did before and after shunting and what I am doing today that has helped me so much!

Before shunt surgery:

When I was in the worst shape the elliptical was my best friend: the movement is gentle but aerobic, and I could hold on the whole time.  The recumbent bike was also a staple of my routine and even after I had foot surgery the doctor let me return to this for cardio just a few weeks after surgery.  During this period, I focused more time on upper body and ab work since they did not require balance.

After shunting:

For more than a year after my shunt surgery I went to physical therapy three times a week, and the primary tool there was the Alter G treadmill – it is a wonderful invention that helped me learn to walk again without the fear of falling.  Once they told me I could graduate from the Alter G to a regular treadmill I knew my time at PT was coming to an end.  PT also taught me the benefits of vestibular training and I still do my eye exercises every morning to prevent vertigo.

Once I left PT I signed up for weekly personal training sessions at my gym.  My trainer was extremely creative and he not only taught me how to use all the strength machines he taught me some great balance exercises as well.

I did finally achieve my stretch goal of going back to the Advanced Step Class after a two-year absence.  I was very nervous but after about 10 minutes I knew I could do it and I started to relax.   The class gave me a round of applause at the end (and then of course I dissolved).

Recent reflections:

It has been a year since I ended PT and I have continued to use my gym on a daily basis for cardio, strength and balance training.  My neurosurgeon was very happy with the way I am walking and told me to keep doing what I am doing.  A few months ago, I retired and joined two senior centers nearby and now enjoy their exercise programs (Jazzercise, Zumba and body toning) in addition to the gym.  There is one class there that gives me both physical and cognitive benefits: line dancing.  Learning and remembering the patterns is a real challenge and frequently the brain gives out before my legs do.  Mastering the rather complex country western line dance patterns has become my new stretch goal – and I’m having a ball.  I have learned about half a dozen dances so far and was told there are only 85 more to go!

I recommend finding an activity like this one to help you challenge both your mind and body, and if you can have fun while doing it and meet some nice folks too then you are as fortunate as I have been!

This page is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed. It is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition, consult your doctor.

11 Comments for : Exercise Tips for NPH patients
    • Luis
    • April 16, 2019

    Hi I was also operated on bcz of this condition, but no matter what I do I’m not feeling like I used too. I never had therapy, and I didn’t know vertigo was part of it. It’s been 6 years since my surgery, and I have just started running and walking what I used to when the condition wasn’t so bad. I also do eye exercises , since the surgery I’ve swam in shark infested waters, graduated high school and college but I still when it comes to running feel as if I’m never gonna be like I used to be , my stamina seems stuck.

    • Ella Phillips
    • September 15, 2018

    U have a patient i do home health care she is not walking barely talk what can i do to help her what kind of range in motion can i do

    • Reply

      I would suggest speaking with her doctor’s office (with her of course) to see what they recommend and what her limitations are.

    • Stephen Luptak
    • May 21, 2018

    My Medicare Complete plan charges a $45 copay per PT session. I cannot afford this on a fixed amount from Social Security. My income was severely limited before my NPH was diagnosed, thus my fixed income is small. Are there alternatives for those of us who are poor?

    • Reply

      I am not very knowledgeable about other insurance plans but that does sound like a high copay. I paid only $15 a visit the last time I went to PT and thought that was reasonable. can you talk to your insurance company or to a difffernet PT place? Some PT facilities will adjust their rates based on the client’s situation.

    • Shelly sofaly
    • December 8, 2017

    I have a question- has anyone experienced sudden hearing loss like me- one sided- im 2 years out after shunt placement with a self regulating pressure valve. I have an appt to see my neurologist in 1 wk. My surgeon does not feel its related but my gut tells me otherwise.

      • Trish Bogucki
      • December 15, 2017

      Hi Shelly: I haven’t heard of that myself but you might want to post your question on the main NPH page: https://www.hydroassoc.org/normal-pressure-hydrocephalus/
      It may get more exposure there.
      Good luck!

      • Malia Walker
      • February 21, 2018

      Thank you for the insightful word .I was diagnosed with hydrocelephus at 2 months old due to meningitis outbreak. In 2012 I suffered a stroke and a heart attack. I honestly didn’t know what to do anymore with my life. Unable to work, I went back to college. After a year of healing. That class was one of the most toughest classes ever. Especially learn again. I ended passing with an A 😀
      Anyway I tried speech and communication I again did great. But then I took math
      I really had a hard time especially going 5 days a week.
      I ended up not going back allowing myself time of self reflection.
      I joined my local YMCA to just get out and about. And it turned into a addiction.
      Now I’m 1 year into my fitness journey. And I’ve decided to become a personal trainer for the elderly.
      Especially since I have a story to tell.
      I was wondering if lifting 15# dumbbell was hard if you’d tried it?
      I just wanted to share my story and reach out. 😀

      • Gary Chaffee
      • March 30, 2018

      I had significant and sudden hearing loss about 2 years ago. Neurologist and Neurosurgeon were reluctant to say it was related to the shunt or hydrocephalus. After seeing several more specialist I had a shunt revision last January and my hearing immediately returned. A search of the medical literature has articles suggesting a sudden hearing loss in a shunted patient raises suspicion about the functioning of the shunt.

  1. Reply

    I just had my shunt reinstalled and I’m losing my ability to walk. How do I go about asking my doctor about an exercise regimen? Which doctor do I ask about an exercise regimen, the neurosurgeon, orthopedic or primary doctor?

      • Trish Bogucki
      • December 6, 2017

      That’s a good question! I spoke with my neurosurgeon about physical therapy right after my shunt surgery specifically to improve my walking and balance and then a year later asked him the best way to keep well, and he reinforced the benefits of my 6 times a week exercise routine. My primary doctor has asked me about exercise too, and I think I would start by asking your primary: they should know your whole profile and be able to make recommendations and give you any precautions.

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