Stroke rehabilitation: How Physiotherapy for Stroke Patients helps in recovery.

What is a Stroke?

Stroke is a potentially life threatening condition which is classed as a medical emergency which needs to be treated as soon as possible.

Our blood carries oxygen around our bodies. Blood travels around our bodies via blood vessels which in other words, we call arteries. A stroke occurs when there is a lack of blood being supplied to our brain. This could be caused by either a blockage or a burst artery.

Signs and symptoms of a stroke? What do I need to look out for?

  • Face – One side of the face may drop. They may not be able to smile.
  • Arms – They may not be able to lift their arms above their head and keep them there.
  • Speech – Speech may be slurred and confused.
  • Time – If someone has these signs, it’s time to call 000.

What are some risk factors of a stroke?

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Overweight / Obesity
  • Age (Increase in age has a higher risk factor)
  • Men are more likely than women

I want to recover physically, what should I do?

From early on in your stroke journey, early mobilization and exercise are essential. Health care professionals such as physiotherapists should ensure goals are discussed and set with the individual and their families.

There is no exact time frame of when you might recover from a stroke, however, it can take from weeks to months to years. It will vary from person to person. While some people are left with long-term disabilities, other people’s outcome may be too severe and might require palliative care (end of life support).  

Strength training and balance training are two of the most importance components of rehabilitation post stroke. Usually, depending on the impact of the stroke, many people lose muscle mass due to inactivity for a prolonged period of time. Strength training helps increase muscle mass to ensure the individual has enough strength to attempt activity-based goals such as; sitting on the edge of the bed, standing, walking, and returning to life activities.

Sometimes after a stroke, people may feel off balance or may have one weaker side compared to the other. Balance training goes hand in hand with strength training as they work together to get the individual stronger, more confident and able to achieve daily tasks. It can also play a role in reducing the risk of a fall.  

How can a Physiotherapist help you recover post stroke?

It is highly recommended that post stroke rehabilitation is completed for at least two hours per day. This can be performed with physio, occupational therapists, and exercise physiologists and with the affected individual completing their exercise plans from home. An idea of what one of your sessions with a physio would look like depending on goals / condition of the disability:

  • Exercise bike – Helps with building muscle mass in the upper and lower limb and increased cardiovascular fitness.
Approximately 5-10 minutes daily.
  • Dynamic sitting balance – Helps with building abdominal strength and balance primarily, however encourages proprioception, co-ordination and strength in upper and lower limbs.
2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • Sit to stand practice – Increases strength in lower limb, balance and proprioception. Encourages normal movement pattern for functional tasks.
2-3 sets of 3-4 reps.
  • Practice walking (with or without walking aid). Helps work on balance, strength in the lower limbs, coordination and proprioception.

Above is an example of what a post-stroke rehabilitation exercise programme could look like depending on many factors including severity of the stroke, timeline after the stroke, health-related goals, neurological impairment and situational environment. The main idea is for the program to help enhance the person’s functional capacity, increase their mental health, reduce the risk of another stroke occurring, and improve social capacity.

If you have suffered a stroke and need some guidance with improving your physical health and function, feel free to use the link below to book online with our new physiotherapist Amy, who has a special interest in stroke rehabilitation. 


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