Stroke Recovery: How Physiotherapy Can Help
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke happens when something stops blood getting to your brain.
Blood travels along your arteries and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your brain. If your artery becomes blocked or bursts, the blood can’t reach your brain. If brain cells don’t get enough oxygen or nutrients, they die. This is called a cerebral infarction.
A stroke is always a medical emergency. The Stroke Foundation uses the FAST system to help people remember stroke symptoms and know what to do.
Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arms: Can they lift both arms?
Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time: Is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.
It’s important to get immediate help because there's a greater chance of stroke-related brain damage if you delay. Getting emergency medical treatment soon after you develop symptoms improves your chance of survival and rehabilitation. In the early days after a stroke, the swelling in your brain goes down and you begin recovering.
What Is Stroke Rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation is the process of helping you recover or adjust and achieve your full potential. It’s about helping you return to your daily activities and improving your quality of life after a significant event like an injury, surgery or stroke. We can help you optimize your function and wellbeing. Rehabilitation focuses on addressing your impairments, reducing your disability and maximizing your participation.
Rehabilitation should start as soon as possible, and as little as 19 minutes extra exercise per day in the hospital setting has been shown to
- improve mobility and activity levels,
- reduce length of stay in hospital
- significantly improve quality of life
Stroke rehab is therapy that helps you adapt to life after a stroke. It may help you relearn how to do something or find a new way of doing it now. Your brain has an amazing capacity to change and adapt (known as neuroplasticity). Stroke rehab harnesses this, training new brain pathways to help you recover abilities that were affected by your stroke.
Will I Make a Full Recovery From Stroke?
This is everyone’s biggest question. You might be feeling quite shocked about what’s just happened to you and fearful about the future. Everyone’s stroke journey will be different, and reading about other people’s experiences can help you with your recovery.
Stroke affects each person differently. How your stroke affects you depends on the area of your brain that is injured, and how badly. It is hard to predict what your stroke recovery process will be. Some people recover almost completely while others live with ongoing impairments affecting their strength, control, coordination, vision, communication, sensory processing, thoughts, feelings or behaviour.
There’s an important window of opportunity in the first six months after a stroke. People who participate in early and comprehensive rehab tend to make much better progress towards recovery. But recovery doesn’t stop at six months – research shows that it’s possible to continue making significant recovery years after a stroke if you’ve got the right support and exercises.
How Can Physiotherapy Help Me Recover From Stroke?
Your stroke rehab team may include doctors, nurses, and Allied Health Professionals such as occupational therapists, speech pathologists and physiotherapists. Each professional helps your recovery in a different way and the best results are achieved when you have a team working together to look after you.
Physiotherapy after stroke assists with recovery of movement and sensation, which are essential abilities for daily life. We work with you and your family or carers to retrain movement patterns and work on specific task training. There are many different possible stroke recovery exercises depending on which parts of your body have been affected. We find that repetition is the key to drive neuroplasticity, but you also need to be practicing the right movements with good technique. That is where we can help.
Physiotherapy can help you to:
- Use your arms: Your physio may recommend strengthening exercises to address arm weakness and repetitive practice of certain tasks to help with daily life.
- Walk again: Your physio may use hands-on therapy and carefully chosen exercises to improve your walking after a stroke. You might practice many steps on a treadmill to help you relearn how to walk. Your physio can also advise on aids such as a walking frame or stick.
- Regain balance: You’re at greater risk of falling after a stroke because your balance is affected. Your physio can assess your balance and improve your steadiness by prescribing and supervising exercises.
- Prevent another stroke: Your physio can help you modify your lifestyle to prevent a disabling second stroke.
Physiotherapy is about much more than keeping your regular appointments with your physio though. It relies on you working on your stroke recovery on a daily basis at home, doing your exercise program and integrating your practice into functional tasks. Research shows that people who take an active role in physiotherapy have a better recovery from stroke.
Your physio will give you exercises to do at home that are tailored to you. These might include:
- Using a chair to practice standing up
- Lifting your bottom or moving your legs while lying on your bed
- Staying fit by walking or swimming.
Your physio knows where you need to start, how much you can do, and when it’s time to progress to the next level of difficulty. You might start by doing simple exercises in bed to activate your muscles, we are building the foundations for more difficult activities like getting in and out of bed, sitting and standing balance and walking.
How Neurospace May Be Able to Help You Recover From Stroke
At Neurospace, we focus on helping people with complex movement difficulties due to damage to their nervous system or sensory systems. This includes people recovering from stroke.
Our physiotherapists can assess your strength, coordination, sensation, movement control, joint function and balance and understand how these affect your daily activities. Then we can develop a tailored program of exercises to help you reach achievable goals.
Please make an appointment today so you can continue your stroke recovery progress.