4 Facts You Need to Know about Stroke Recovery

Physical therapy treatment for stroke victims.

4 Facts You Need to Know about Stroke Recovery

It can be devastating when you, or someone you love, has a stroke. The injury’s fast, catastrophic nature causes abrupt neurological deficits and physical disabilities. While doctors work to stabilize cerebral edema (inflammatory swelling that reaches its peak within the first three to five days), symptoms often get worse, sometimes temporarily.

Once your medical team helps the brain stabilize, it’s important to know where to turn, so your interventions can maximize stroke recovery. Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy (including swallowing) can be critical tools to support and maximize brain healing by stimulating the brain’s innate, regenerative capacity (neuroplasticity) with therapeutic movement.

Here are four facts you need to know about stroke recovery:

1. Even with Rehab, Stroke Recovery Takes Times

Stroke recovery (which may include Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy) typically begins in the first 24-48 hours at inpatient rehabs, outpatient rehabs, skilled nursing facilities or in the home. Although it often takes time to see functionality restored, stroke treatment makes a big difference to recovery.

The first month or two of stroke treatment is the most important. Expect almost-daily physical therapy (5-6 days a week) in an inpatient or outpatient setting. If big results and the restoration of functionality do not immediately appear, it’s important not to lose hope. That’s normal with this kind of event.

While stroke treatment maximizes functionality as it returns, treatment typically does not speed up recovery time. Stroke recovery is slow and arduous. Neurogenesis (the creation of brain cells) takes time. Many people give up too soon, often in the first six months, and studies show that even five-years after a stroke, intensive rehabilitation and robotic aids can restore modest limb movement.

According to the American Stroke Association, about 10% of stroke survivors completely restore functionality, about 25% recover with minor impairments, about 40% experience moderate to severe impairments and another 10% require long-term care.

2. Stroke Recovery Regenerates Brain Pathways

The side of the brain the stroke occurs on can give you some clues to stroke severity and stroke recovery outcomes. Compared to right-hemispheric strokes, a stroke that occurs in the left-hemisphere tends to be more common and more severe. As with a right-hemispheric stroke, it may weaken or paralyze the opposite side of the body, but a left-hemispheric stroke may also more dramatically impair access to language, and the higher metabolic demands of the left-hemisphere may impact neurogenesis.

In either scenario, after a stroke, motor activities often need to be re-learned. Replacing injured neural pathways in the brain takes patience and repetition. Just as with infants whose brain pathways have not yet developed, stroke recovery can be gradual when there is severe damage, and small changes are victories.

It is normal to need assistance re-learning to talk, swallow, walk, sit, stand, lie down, control the bladder and bowels, grasp objects and switch from one movement to another.

3. The Right Rehabilitation Matters to Stroke Recovery

”There are about 6.4 million stroke patients in the U.S. with chronic deficits. We’ve shown that with the right therapy, they can see improvements in movement, everyday function, and quality of life,” says researcher Albert Lo, assistant professor of neurology at Brown University.

Therapy for stroke recovery helps with adjustments to speech and memory changes, builds hand-eye coordination, improves motor skills and adapts the environment to allow safe movement and support easy access to household items and medications. Stroke movement-therapy may include motor-skill exercises, mobility training, constraint-induced therapy and range-of-motion therapy. Technological assistance for stroke recovery may include electrical stimulation, virtual reality, wireless technology and robotic technology. Read more here.

In addition to focusing on strength, coordination and strategies for living, therapy for stroke recovery can minimize or prevent further disability by assisting with cognitive and executive functioning skills, such as memory, perception, decision-making, problem-solving and abstract reasoning.

4. Emotional Support is Critical to Stroke Recovery

The enormous losses incurred by a stroke cause overwhelming feelings. Shock, denial, grief, rage, irritability, forgetfulness, confusion, depression and anxiety are common during stroke recovery. These feelings are difficult to cope with and can be hard to share. Even a relatively small stroke can make a big emotional impact that does more than impact quality of life.

Mood will either impair or support stroke recovery. The stroke-victim and family members need support processing the experience. It’s important to find someone to openly talk to regularly, someone who can handle the emotional intensity and validate the full range of these normal feelings while offering interest, empathy and compassion. Making sense of how the stroke fits into your life narrative will make a big impact on stroke recovery.

Support for stabilizing the nervous system can also be found by getting lots of rest, practicing breathing exercises that calm the whole body (like long outbreaths that stimulate the vagus nerve) and following a diet that improves mood and increases neurogenesis.
By understanding what’s on the horizon and getting support for stroke recovery, you can help to offset the emotional devastation that comes from such loss and regain maximum independence one step at a time.

Select Med1Care for Stroke Recovery
If you or someone you care for suffered a stroke, our experienced physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists can help chart the path to stroke recovery, restore maximum functionality and improve quality of life.

Med1Care Therapy Partner’s experienced therapists are trained in providing personalized stroke recovery plans. We will partner with your physicians to help you build a unique treatment plan with the right rehabilitation support.

Call us at 419.866.0555 to schedule a free consultation.
Our specialists will help you chart a course forward.

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