Physiotherapy and Stroke Rehabilitation

Physiotherapy and Stroke Rehabilitation

Did you know that 9 out of 10 Canadians are at risk of stroke and heart problems? If you are afflicted with a stroke, then it can take as much as 3 to 6 months to get back on your feet. 

It is difficult to name a single cause or reason for a stroke. Primarily, a stroke takes place when there is inadequate blood flow to your brain, either due to stenosis (narrowing/blocking of blood vessels) or aneurysm (rupturing of blood vessels).  This decreases the level of oxygen and nutrients to the areas of the brain, which can result in damage, sometimes permanent, to brain cells. This leads to the variety of signs and symptoms seen during and post stroke. 

A stroke attack could be of varying intensity. A person that experiences a major stroke could end up paralyzed on one side of their body. If the stroke is a minor one, the individual may only experience some pain/loss of function in their arm or leg. In either case, physio rehabilitation is needed to restore as much function as possible as the brain goes through a process called neuroplasticity (healing/repairing of brain cells and their neural pathways)

Rehabilitation after a stroke

The goal of a stroke rehabilitation program is to help stroke sufferers relearn the skills they lost when the stroke damaged their brain. Stroke rehabilitation is designed to help patients regain independence and improve their quality of life.

The severity of stroke complications and the ability to recover vary from person to person. However, studies have shown just how adaptive the central nervous system is in recovering lost functions and regaining skills.

For example, these skills can include coordinating leg movements in order to walk or carrying out the steps involved in everyday activities such as dressing and bathing. Individuals may also need to learn how to communicate effectively when their ability to use language has been compromised.

There is a strong consensus among rehabilitation experts that the most important element of any rehabilitation program is carefully directed, well-focused and repetitive practice.

Rehabilitation beings in the hospital as soon as possible following a stroke and is continued as necessary after release from the hospital.

The long-term goal of rehabilitation is to improve function so that the stroke survivor can become as independent as possible. This must be accomplished in a way that preserves dignity and motivates the survivor to relearn basic skills that the stroke may have impaired.

How physiotherapy and stroke rehabilitation can help stroke survivors

Stroke rehabilitation and physiotherapy go hand-in-hand when recovering from a stroke. The process of physiotherapy not only focuses on improving the patient’s physical health but their overall mental health as well.

The processes included in stroke therapy include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Technology-assisted activities
  • Emotional activities

Physical therapy

The process of physical therapy is intended to improve the motor skills of the patient and prevent them from becoming completely dependent on other people.

People who have suffered a stroke are at a greater risk of losing mobility and thus being dependent on others for basic activities.

Physical therapy can help the patient to move again and experience confidence in living an independent life.

Technology-assisted activities

In some cases, exercise therapy alone may not be adequate to complement the patient’s physical situation. Technology is being used more frequently to assist patients to regain their independent mobility. Electric currents are used to activate the areas of the body that may no longer respond to action commands from the brain.

Emotional activities

The emotional aspect of a client are just as important as their physical needs.

When a person suffers a stroke, they usually lose their self-confidence and may slip into a depressive state. Apart from physical therapy, the healing process also focuses on educating the patient and the family in order to foster moral support and patient recovery.

The goal of physiotherapy and stroke rehabilitation

By using these methods of therapy, physiotherapists can design and implement an individualized plan to help stroke survivors overcome the physical and emotional effects of their ordeal.

When it comes to physiotherapy and stroke rehabilitation, there are four main goals that are focused on depending on the patient’s needs:

  • To recover motor skills
  • To regain communication
  • To recover cognitive abilities
  • To recover mobility

Recover Motor Skills

Stroke rehabilitation and physiotherapy are appropriate means to regain lost motor skills. A stroke heavily affects your muscle strength and coordination.

Suitable motor skills exercises are recommended to regain motor functions.

Regain Communication

It is common to have communication problems following a stroke. In worst-case scenarios, there is a total loss of speech – a condition known as “Aphasia”.

Aphasia is not just limited to speaking but can also cause difficulty in understanding speech, reading and writing.

Speech therapy is used to regain lost communication skills and is a large part of stroke rehabilitation.

Recover Cognitive Abilities

Many stroke survivors end up losing cognitive aspects such as memory use, information processing, situational awareness, judgment, and social skills.

There are therapies specifically designed to help stroke patients properly recover those functions.

Recover Mobility

Perhaps one of the largest focuses of physiotherapy and stroke rehabilitation is to implement an effective mobility therapy in order to help patients regain their lost mobility.

Additional tools such as walkers, cane, wheelchairs, and ankle braces may be used to facilitate recovery.

How long does stroke rehabilitation take?

For most people, rehabilitation is a lifelong process. The road to recovery varies from person to person. Rehabilitation needs to start right after the doctor clears the client for rehabilitation, and there is a golden window of 3-6 months post store where neuroplasticity (brain healing) is the strongest. Some survivors may recover the majority of their faculties within a few weeks or months while others may take years to recover. Physiotherapy is not a cure and it is not a miracle program. It is a therapy designed to help survivors work toward their maximum potential in order to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Please contact VanCity Physio as soon as possible to find out how we can help you, or someone you know, recover from stoke. It takes hard work, dedication and commitment to rehabilitation; however, with our help and support, we will see results in recovery.

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