Walking, holding a water glass, and difficulty swallowing may be difficult after a stroke. Post-stroke rehabilitation is an important part of the recovery process. Every physical therapy treatment plan is designed for the individual’s specific circumstances and goals.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, physical therapy can help stroke patients regain strength for basic tasks and movements. Throughout the treatment plan, a stroke survivor can progress to sharpening coordination skills and improving balance.
Stroke Is a Leading Cause of Death and Disability in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States. In 2020, a stroke took the lives of more than 160,000 Americans. Ahead of stroke were accidents (200,955 deaths), COVID-19 (350,831 deaths), cancer (602,350 deaths), and heart disease (696,962 deaths). Stroke is also a leading cause of disability in the U.S.
Each year, almost 800,000 Americans have a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood vessels cannot properly carry oxygen to the brain.
There are two types of stroke:
- Ischemic Stroke. The blood vessel either bursts or is blocked by a clot, affecting the vessel’s ability to transport oxygen to the brain.
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). Sometimes called a “mini-stroke,” a TIA is caused by a temporary clot.
The stroke’s effects depend on how long and which part of the brain was deprived of oxygen. Each region of the brain controls certain body functions. The body function controlled by the area of the brain not receiving oxygen will be impacted.
Stroke can result in long-term problems including the following:
- Weakness on one side of the body
- Stiffness in the limbs
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sensitivity to cold
- Memory loss
- Slow or slurred speech
- Problems remembering words
The earlier the stroke is diagnosed, the better the outcome. A CT scan or MRI is often used to confirm the stroke diagnosis.
Strokes Patients Show Biggest Gains in First Three Months
Recovery is different for everyone, but most stroke patients experience the most marked improvements within three months after the stroke. When possible, rehabilitation begins before the patient is released from the hospital and continues in outpatient sessions once discharged. Cognitive, physical, and emotional symptoms are addressed.
Physical therapy aims to return the patient as close as possible to their pre-stroke abilities. At ProFysio Physical Therapy in New Jersey, we first focus on the patient relearning activities such as walking, standing, gripping and similar skills necessary in everyday life.
During the initial recovery phase, patients may experience what’s called spontaneous recovery – suddenly recovering a lost skill. Their brains find new ways to perform the tasks.
PT Can Improve Mobility Years After a Stroke
A clinical study funded by the Veterans Administration showed that stroke patients can benefit from physical therapy even years after the event. Consistent, ongoing therapy can help the brain rewire itself to compensate for the damage.
“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,” said Albert Lo, assistant professor of neurology at Brown University and the study’s lead author. “This is giving stroke survivors new hope.”
Exercise Can Reduce Risk of Recurrent Stroke
Once you have had a stroke, your risk for another stroke is higher than the general population. According to the American Heart Association, about 30% of strokes are recurrent, meaning the person had suffered a previous stroke.
Lifestyle changes, including exercise, are important steps to help reduce the chance of a second stroke. In an article posted in Scientific Reports, stroke survivors who exercised more than five, 40-minute sessions per week have a lower recurrence rate than those with no consistent exercise program.
Improve Your Life, Reduce Recurrent Stroke Risk
If you have had a stroke, even years ago, our physical therapy doctors at ProFysio Physical Therapy may be able to help you discover new gains in mobility and flexibility. We can also develop an ongoing exercise program to minimize your risk of recurrent stroke.
Contact us today for a free initial evaluation. We will assess your medical history and other factors to determine how our services can help you. Call (732) 812-5200 to schedule.