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How Physiotherapy Can Help Stroke Survivors


Why Physiotherapy is Key in Stroke Recovery Strokes can be traumatic and leave a major impact on the survivor’s physical and cognitive abilities. While a […]

Man getting phyio from a physiotherapist

Why Physiotherapy is Key in Stroke Recovery

Strokes can be traumatic and leave a major impact on the survivor’s physical and cognitive abilities. While a physiotherapist cannot entirely reverse the effects of a stroke, they can help stroke victims regain as much of their abilities as possible. Read below for more information about how a physiotherapist can help a patient affected by a stroke.

What is a Stroke?

Blood flows all throughout the body, including to the brain. This helps it carry out its regular functions. However, when a stroke occurs, blood is unable to flow to the brain. As a result, brain cells can become permanently damaged.

There are a few types of strokes, including:

  • Ischemic stroke – this is caused by clotting or blockage in a blood vessel in the brain, usually stemming from plaque buildup on an artery

  • Hemorrhagic stroke – this is caused by the rupturing of an artery in the brain, which allows blood to flow freely, thereby damaging the brain

  • Transient ischemic stroke – also called a mini-stroke – is caused by a clot that blocks an artery for a short period of time

What Effects Can Strokes Leave on a Victim?

Strokes can affect victims in many different ways, and these effects may differ based on which part of the brain experienced the stroke. Ultimately, the effects left by a stroke can be physical and communication-based, among others.

Strokes that occur on the left side of the brain may leave the following effects:

  • Paralysis on the opposite side of the body

  • Trouble speaking and using language

  • Slowed behaviour and functioning

  • Memory loss

Strokes that occur on the right side of the brain may result in the following effects:

  • Paralysis on the opposite side of the body

  • Trouble with vision

  • Memory loss

If the stroke occurs near the brain stem, it may result in effects to both sides of the brain.

Identifying the Signs of a Stroke (and What To Do)

Signs of a stroke include sudden numbness, confusion, trouble seeing, trouble walking, or a severe headache.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends using the ‘FAST’ acronym to determine whether a stroke may be occurring:

  • FACE: Ask the person to smile. Is their face drooping?

  • ARMS: Ask the person to raise their arms. Are they having trouble?

  • SPEECH: Ask them a question with more than a one-word answer. Is it slurred or jumbled?

  • TIME: If the answers are ‘yes,’ it’s time to call 9-1-1 right away.

It’s recommended to note the time that you notice these symptoms – this will help health care providers act.

How Physiotherapists Can Help During Recovery

The effects of a stroke can make life challenging for victims in recovery – especially considering that many effects are permanent or semi-permanent. For many victims, recovery involves seeing a physiotherapist. These specialists provide advice and teach helpful movement strategies to people affected by injuries, among others.

Here’s how a physiotherapist can help those affected by stroke.

Help with Standing

It can be hard for some patients recovering from stroke to maintain balance as they stand. Physiotherapy can help these patients maintain their balance while on both feet.

Mobility

Walking independently can be a major challenge for many who are affected by a stroke. Physiotherapists can help show these patients movement techniques, light exercises, and recovery strategies.

Treadmill Training

The use of a treadmill is recommended for many, as it can help patients retain their ability to move quickly and confidently. Some studies even show that walking on a treadmill can rewire parts of the brain for these patients.

Rhythm Cueing

Rhythm-based rehabilitation is a favourite among those recovering. It can help with hand-eye coordination, cognitive recovery, and much more.

Overground Walking

While treadmills provide a flat, consistent surface for patients learning to walk, overground walking also offers plenty of opportunities for recovery.

Orthotics

Ankle-orthotics or foot-orthotics can help those in recovery improve their mobility and balance while learning to walk independently. Since stroke survivors often experience foot-drop, orthotics are often recommended.

Arm Functioning

Most of the previous items on this list involve legs and walking, but arm movement is something that physiotherapy can also assist with. Specifically, physiotherapists can teach patients stretches and movements to help patients use their hands, arms, and shoulders with as little difficulty as possible.

Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy

CIMT is a therapeutic approach to mobility that is used to help limbs that are affected by a stroke or similar brain injury.

Conclusion

Strokes can be severely life-altering – but survivors don’t have to recover alone. With the help of a physiotherapist, many stroke survivors are able to regain their mobility, comfort, and confidence.

Contact us today to learn how physiotherapy can help you or someone you love.

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