Purpose: Patients with conversion disorder present with symptoms of sensory and motor dysfunction that are not explained by known physical disorders or pathophysiological mechanisms. Correct diagnosis and prompt, effective management of patients with this disorder is essential. Healthcare providers may be unaware of the important role of physical therapy in the management of patients with conversion disorder. While numerous reports have suggested the need for physical therapy management of this disorder, there is a lack of reports outlining specific physical therapy management principles or daily treatment progression. The purpose of this series of case reports is to provide an overview of conversion disorder and describe successful physical therapy management strategies used to treat three patients with movement impairment due to this disorder.
Case description: The patients were 18-, 20-, and 34-year-old women treated in a hospital inpatient rehabilitation setting. Behavioral modification and shaping techniques formed the basis for the physical therapy treatment approach. Abnormal movement patterns were ignored, and correct movement patterns were reinforced using feedback and praise. The patients advanced through a progressively more difficult therapy program based on treatment approaches used with analogous neurological conditions.
Outcomes: All three patients showed complete resolution of their symptoms and returned to independent mobility, independent living, and to work or school.