Stroke Education
The Stroke Network


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Physical Therapy 

 

The brain is a remarkable organ. When the blood flow is cut off, new pathways can take over and supply the blood to the damaged area. Also, the brain can make compensations. One area will take over the functions that were previously handled by a different area.

People who have minor strokes can and do recover from most disabilities caused by a stroke! Others with more serious deficits, massive strokes, may have serious permanent disabilities but still lead a productive life following a stroke. 

Rehabilitation should begin as soon as possible after a stroke. The first priority is to stabilize your medical condition and get life-threatening conditions under control. Doctors also take measures to prevent another stroke and limit any stroke-related complications. However, once these steps have been taken, it's common for stroke rehabilitation to start during your acute hospital stay.

The sooner you begin stroke rehabilitation, the more likely you are to regain lost abilities and skills. Rehabilitation is imperative following a stroke.  Rehabilitation therapy must start immediately and continue, to some degree, for however long as possible. 

New brain connections, neuro pathways, must be developed around the damaged area.  The only way to expedite these connections is through therapy.  The benefits come from helping the brain to reorganize itself with physical therapy, which in turn helps the stroke survivor to recover functions lost after a stroke.  The more therapy the better. 

Stroke rehabilitation is the combined and coordinated use of medical, social, educational, and vocational measures for retraining a person.  Some of the different types of medical professionals who participate in the care of stroke patients during the rehabilitation process include:

Physicians
Rehabilitation Nurses
Physical Therapists
Speech-Language Pathologists
Occupational and Recreational Therapists
Vocational Therapists

STEPS OF RECOVERY FROM A STROKE

Usually, recovery happens in phases. It takes place over a period of time that can vary from a few weeks to a few years. Every stroke is different and the extent of damage varies. Below are the general phases that a stroke patient can expect to go through.

Treatment - This begins when a person first enters the hospital. Doctors will determine the type of stroke and will provide the appropriate treatment. This may consist of drugs to break up clots, tPA, and thin the blood or surgery to repair a broken blood vessel. Treatment is aimed at preventing another stroke from taking place and limiting the amount of brain damage that occurs.

Recovery - After a stroke, some spontaneous recovery takes place for most people. Abilities that may have been lost will begin to return. This process can take place very quickly over the first few weeks, and then, it may begin to taper off.  Despite what hospital doctors predict, most stroke survivors regain more than expected.  Doctors HAVE to give the worst case scenario. 

Rehabilitation - This phase usually takes place while the patient is still in the hospital. Various therapists and specialists will work with the stroke victim to bring back lost skills. This can be a very frustrating time for the patient as they become aware of their limitations from the stroke. Oftentimes, this is the period where anger or depression can set in. It's good to remember that with proper therapy, many or most skills can be relearned.

Returning Home - This can be a very exciting time, but adjustments may have to be made. Some of the adjustments might be temporary or some may last for a lifetime.

For the stroke survivor, simple tasks such as tying shoes or fastening pants can be difficult. These are easy to remedy. Velcro shoes and drawstring pants can be worn. Other issues may not be as easy. But take courage. There will be many experts to ease this transition.


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All rights reserved.
Original date 3/1/96 Revised 11/24/08
 

 

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