Motor neurons are a crucial component of the nervous system, responsible for transmitting signals from the brain to the muscles. However, when these neurons suffer a lesion or injury, it can lead to debilitating conditions such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Spinal Muscular Dystrophy (SMD). In this blog, we will explore motor neuron lesions and their impact on the patient's life.

Motor Neuron Lesions:

Motor neuron lesions can greatly impact an individual's mobility and daily function, but with proper physiotherapy treatment, there is hope for improvement and recovery.
Lesions in motor neurons can cause problems with the control of movement and muscle function. Motor neurons are nerve cells that control muscle contractions, and damage to these cells can result in muscle weakness, paralysis, or other movement disorders. Motor neuron lesions refer to damage or destruction of the motor neurons, which are nerve cells responsible for transmitting signals from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles. This can result in muscle weakness, difficulty in movement, and loss of muscle tone. Lesions can be caused by various factors, including degenerative diseases (such as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), trauma, infection, exposure to toxins, and others.
Treatment for motor neuron lesions typically involves managing symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease and may include physiotherapy, medications, and other forms of support.

Upper Motor Neuron Lesion (UMN Lesion)
Upper motor neuron diseases refer to a group of neurological conditions that affect the upper motor neurons, which are the nerve cells in the brain that control movement and coordination. Some common examples of upper motor neuron diseases include:

1: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
2: Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS)
3: Progressive bulbar palsy (PBP)
4: Progressive muscular atrophy (PMA).

An upper motor lesion is damage to the motor pathway in the central nervous system (CNS) above the level of the spinal cord. Some signs and manual tests for UMN lesions include:

1: Weakness,
2: Spasticity,
3: Muscle wasting,
4: Increased muscle tone,
5: Hyperreflexia,
6: Problems with coordination movement and coordination, etc.

Manual Tests that can help diagnose an Upper Motor Lesion Include:

  • Muscle tone test: Evaluates the resistance of a limb to passive movement, looking for increased muscle tone.
  • Reflex test: Tests for hyperreflexia, which is an exaggerated knee-jerk response.
  • Clonus test: Looks for rhythmic muscular contractions caused by sudden stretching.
  • Babinski sign: Tests for the presence of an abnormal reflex that involves dorsiflexion (upward movement) of the big toe and fanning of the other toes, which is a classic sign of an upper motor lesion.
These tests can help diagnose an upper motor lesion, but further tests, such as imaging studies (e.g., MRI or CT scan) or electrophysiological tests (e.g. EMG), may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the damage. Treatment options depend on the specific condition and may include medication, physiotherapy, and other supportive measures.

Lower Motor Neuron Lesion (LMN Lesion)
Lower motor neuron diseases refer to a group of disorders that affect the lower motor neurons in the spinal cord and brainstem. Some examples of lower motor neuron diseases include:
Lower motor neuron (LMN) lesions affect the anterior horn cells of the spinal cord or the cranial nerve nuclei in the brainstem. Some signs and manual tests for LMN lesions include:
  • Muscle weakness and atrophy,
  • Hypotonia (reduced muscle tone),
  • Fasciculations (twitching of individual muscle fibres),
  • Decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes (such as knee or ankle reflexes),
  • Muscle cramps or spasms, etc.
Manual tests for LMN lesions include:
Testing for muscle weakness: The strength of specific muscle groups can be tested by asking the patient to perform certain movements (e.g., lifting a limb against resistance)
Testing for hypotonia: The muscle tone can be assessed by passively moving the limb and observing the resistance offered by the muscles
Testing for fasciculations: The presence of fasciculations can be detected by visually examining the muscles or by palpation (feeling the muscle with the hands)
Testing for reflexes: Deep tendon reflexes can be tested by tapping a tendon with a reflex hammer and observing the response of the muscle.
It is important to note that these signs and tests are not specific to LMN lesions and may also occur with other conditions. A comprehensive clinical examination, imaging studies, and other tests may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of an LMN lesion.

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the rehabilitation of patients with motor neuron lesions by helping to reduce symptoms, improve their mobility, and thus increase the overall quality of life.