Stroke Recovery: How Physiotherapy May Help
National Stroke Week 2021, encourages everyone to learn the signs of stroke to get help more quickly.
To recognise those signs, the Stroke Foundation encourages you to think FAST when looking at someone who may be experiencing a stroke:
- Face – has their face dropped?
- Arms – can they lift both arms?
- Speech – is their speech slurred? Can they understand you?
- Time – every second counts. Call 000 immediately.
Here, we explore the causes and impact of stroke and explain how physiotherapy can help.
What is a stroke?
Your brain is a highly specialised organ with different sections responsible for different aspects of your body, like your movements, speech, thought processes and behaviour.
Stroke happens when a blocked or burst artery stops oxygen-rich, nutrient-packed blood getting to your brain. Brain cells in the affected area start to die very quickly.
While stroke can affect anyone, the risk is higher if you:
- Are a man
- Are older
- Have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Have diabetes
- Drink too much alcohol
- Are overweight.
What’s life like after a stroke?
Depending on where and how severely your stroke affects your brain, you may experience:
- Weakness on one side of your body
- Difficulty controlling or coordinating your movements (which can lead to incontinence)
- Finding it hard to use one side of your body
- Swallowing difficulties which can affect your food and water intake
- Changes to your personality or behaviour
- Emotional outbursts
- Difficulty thinking, remembering or understanding
- Difficulty interpreting information received from your senses of smell, touch, taste, sight or hearing
- Communication difficulties that affect your ability to read, write, speak or understand
- Vision loss.
Every stroke is different. One person may find that they can no longer coordinate their movements well enough to cook dinner alone anymore, another may find it hard to speak clearly, and another may now need to use a wheelchair. Each situation can be frustrating and debilitating.
How significantly your life changes after stroke depends on factors such as:
- The type of stroke
- Which artery burst or got blocked
- Which area of the brain was damaged and how severely.
Interestingly, your recovery also depends on some pre-stroke factors such as your:
- General health before the stroke
- Level of physical activity before the stroke.
Rehabilitation after stroke
You’ll make the fastest recovery in the first few days after your stroke as the brain swelling goes down. The sooner you start rehabilitation the better. That involves working with doctors and allied health professionals like occupational therapists and physiotherapists to help you recover lost functions.
How can physiotherapy help in stroke recovery?
Physiotherapy can help you recover movement and sensation after a stroke.
You can’t reverse the brain damage caused by stroke but intensive and targeted physiotherapy can help you recover some function and movement. That’s because your brain can often learn how to compensate and work around the damaged area.
Imagine you’re setting off on a journey by car. The quickest way to your destination is the nearby motorway and, normally, you’d always use that route. But now, it’s blocked – you can’t take the motorway anymore. However, you can get to your destination using smaller roads. It feels awkward and unfamiliar at first but, as you travel that route regularly, it starts to feel easier.
Physiotherapy helps your amazing brain do something similar as it tries to adapt after a stroke. It’s known as neuroplasticity.
We can’t bring the damaged cells back but we can train your brain to reorganise its remaining cells to help you do everyday tasks. This can take intense work. You may need to practise your exercises for several hours a day as you retrain your brain.
Stroke rehab at Physionorth
Our physiotherapy for stroke rehab focuses on helping you regain the ability to carry out everyday tasks. That includes exercises to help you use your arms, walk or improve your balance.
We’re also here to encourage you when you feel down and help you see the progress you’re making. Some days, it may feel like you’re not getting anywhere but we measure your progress regularly and can show you the genuine improvements you’re making.
It’s true that recovery slows after a few months but it doesn’t have to stop. Our physiotherapists help you keep going with the right therapy and the right mindset.
If you or a loved one is adjusting to life after a stroke, then please make an appointment to start your stroke rehabilitation at Physionorth.
All information is general in nature.