What is a ataxia?

Ataxia is a symptom of poor coordination resulting from neurological damage. It is commonly associated with damage to the "cerebellum", which is the part of the brain that controls the coordination of muscle activity.

There are many different types and causes of ataxia but the three main categories are:

  • Acquired ataxia:
    caused by damage to the nervous system from injury or illness - for example: brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain tumour, poisoning or intoxication
  • Hereditary ataxia:
    caused by a defect in an inherited gene
  • Idiopathic cerebellar ataxia:
    where the cerebellum deteriorates over time but no clear cause is identified

How does ataxia affect people?

Ataxia can cause a range of symptoms including:

  • reduced balance
  • uncontrolled gait
  • reduced coordination with limb movements
  • slurred speech

This lack of control can cause great difficulty in performing day-to-day tasks and significantly interfere with an individual's independence.

Why do I need a neurological physiotherapist?

Neurological physiotherapists are specialists and trained to understand the effects and interactions of ataxia symptoms. They can identify where rehabilitation should be focused, and work on areas and problems that specifically affect the individual using targeted physiotherapy.

This may include:

  • Exercises to help improve core/abdominal control, which in turn can improve limb stability
  • Balance exercises to improve or maintain abilities which can help reduce the risk of falls, as well as the fear surrounding this
  • Teaching strategies on how to improve the timing and coordination of arm movements
  • Advice on appropriate equipment to increase independence and safety.

Remember, even with ataxia, there is much that can be done to restore your quality of life, and help you with movement, speech and day-to-day living.

More information

For lots of useful advice and contacts regarding ataxia, visit:

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