Are You Making These Mistakes With Your Stroke Therapy?

New advances in stroke therapy are helping stroke survivors more than ever. A stroke involves a loss of blood and oxygen to parts of the brain. The two main causes of strokes are ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke implies a clot or embolism that has cut off the blood supply and a hemorrhagic is due to the blood vessel wall bursting. The end result is the same. An area of the brain has been deprived of oxygen and is damaged. The extent of disability after a stroke depends on many factors. The degree of damage and the area of the brain that has been damaged. However, all hope is not lost. New discoveries in  stroke therapy are shedding light on how best to recover.

It is estimated that over 700,000 people every year suffer a stroke. Once a survivor has been stabilized the road of stroke recovery begins. Stroke therapy usually begins in an outpatient clinic or private specialist centre. After a certain time period stroke survivors are left to fend for themselves. Stroke therapy can be expensive and therefore a financial burden to have long extensive ongoing stroke therapy. This leaves more and more survivors and their families with shorter periods under professional guidance and looking to start some form of home rehabilitation.

Stroke therapy at home is easier said than done. It can be very confusing to know what to do, how to do it and for how long. A good starting point is to look at improving any deficits that a survivor may have. We can look at areas of the body and areas of the mind to make things easier. The body can be broken into the ability to move parts of the body and the ability to feel parts of the body. The mind can relate to deficits in ability to think, reason and remember. Common issues with the mind can include memory problems, language issues or spatial awareness.

In the body we look for any areas that are lacking sensation or feeling. These areas may feel numb to the survivor or have a feeling of pins and needles. There may be patches of skin that feel like this, whole limbs or one half of the body. Also with the body there may be areas that are paralyzed or unable to move. Although obvious but tailoring treatment to these areas and concentrating on them can really help make stroke therapy more efficient. With the mind depending on which hemisphere of the brain has been damaged we classically get two common issues. Issues with language denote damage to the left hemisphere of the brain and issues with spatial awareness relate to damage on the right side of the brain.

A whole world of exciting and revolutionary stroke therapy exists. Unfortunately the masses and the people who need it the most are usually not exposed to it. You can learn and perform cutting edged and advanced stroke therapy in the comfort of your own home. Imagine the possibilities.

What Is Effective Stroke Treatment?

Stroke recovery involves some form of stroke treatment. Approximately thirty million Americans are affect every year by a stroke. A stroke means that oxygen carried by blood has been somehow compromised to an area of the brain. This can happen by an occlusion or something that physically blocks the blood such as a blood clot. It can also happen when a blood vessel bursts, which is called a hemorrhage and results in a bleed. The outcome for both causes is the same, the damaged area of the brain has impaired functioning.

The extent of stroke damage will determine the extent of the stroke treatment. The damage to the area of the affected brain depends on how severe the stroke was. The potential problems faced by the stroke survivor also depend on what area of the brain was damaged. Our brain is divided into different sections that subsequently perform different tasks, therefore damage to a particular area will affect that task performance. Part of stroke treatment will focus on retraining that task.

How does stroke treatment actually help the brain in the stroke rehabilitation process? Scientists have discovered that the brain is capable of changing and learning. Physical changes on the cellular level occur that allow the brain to learn new skills. This is termed neuroplasticity. It occurs with any learning, such as a new motor skill like dancing or a new cognitive skill like mathematics. Stroke survivors when doing stroke treatment are not usually learning new skills but learning the ability to do skills that they have lost. This could be moving a part of the body or understanding language.

On the cellular level stroke treatment starts to help cells communicate to each other. For example the cells that want to move your arm must start to communicate to the cells that are responsible for movement. When first learning or re-learning this skill the communication pathway can be likened to trying to tread a path through a forest, it is hard to find a path the first time. But over time as the same path is tread over and over again, a certain groove will be worn out and a clearer path will develop that will be much easier to walk along. The same is true with the brain, the communication becomes stronger and easier to do. Such is the goal with stroke treatment.

Stroke treatment enables the brain to form new connections so it can better perform any tasks that it was having difficulty with. This is an important part of the rehabilitation process and is vital for stroke recovery. There is a severe lack of the latest and best stroke rehabilitation exposure to most stroke survivors. Many survivors are incorrectly informed about their potential for recovery and their rehab is an outdated rushed process that leaves them well short of their recovery. I would hope that all stroke survivors are properly educated with how the brain recovers during stroke rehabilitation and that they have access to the best and newest stroke treatment.

What Are The Best Stroke Exercises?

A vital aspect of what stroke exercises to perform is determined by what part of the brain has been damaged by the stroke event. A stroke occurs when blood to the area is compromised and this results in decreased oxygen. It can also be called a CVA or cerebrovascular accident. The problems experienced post stroke are a result of the extent of the injury which relates to how much of the brain area was affected. Also relating to problems experienced is which side of the brain or part of the brain has been damaged.

Stroke exercises form an integral part of the recovery and rehabilitation process. The latest scientific research about the brain and recovery demonstrate a remarkable finding called ‘neuroplasticity’ with regards to the brain and the nervous system. Neuroplasticity is a combination of the words neurology which can refer to the brain and nervous system and the word plastic which refers to something soft and pliable. Basically science has found that the brain is a ‘plastic’ organ, which means it is not fixed or rigid but it is highly adaptable and able to change or mold. This concept is the process behind stroke recovery and people abilities to regain functions after a stroke. With regards to stroke exercises in very broad categories we can look at three main areas which are cognitive exercises, motor exercises and sensory exercises.

Best Stroke Exercises

One aspect of stroke exercises  should focus on cognition. Cognition can be defined as the processing of thought for example recalling a telephone number. For those that have suffered a CVA on the left side of the brain it is common to have some language related cognitive problems. This is usually referred to as an aphasia. Typically there can be difficulty with expressing speech or understanding speech despite nothing being wrong with speech production or hearing of the speech. The problem has to do with the brain’s processing of language which affects the understanding and expression of it. Cognitive exercises are therefore very important for post stroke recovery.

Probably one of the most common parts of rehabilitation for stroke involves motor rehabilitation. Motor is this regards refers to the movement of the body. Stroke survivors who have issues with movement might have a flaccid or limp limb that has little muscle tone or they may have spasticity in the limb which makes it rigid. Either way there can be difficulty with the movement of this limb and working on improving movement and coordination of any affected limbs is very important. Goals of regaining some independence such as walking, getting dressed, feeding oneself or getting out of bed are vitally important to help improve the quality of life for a stroke survivor.

Sensory disturbances may affect areas of the skin or the bodies ability to feel things. The area may feel numb or become unable to discriminate between hot and cold objects or sharp or dull objects. There may be just reduced feeling in the area where some feeling may be present but the level of sensitivity is very poor. The movement of limbs can be affected by these sensory problems because it can be difficult to move something you can not feel.

The need for specific stroke exercises to help a patient with their recovery and rehabilitation is very important. These exercises should target the symptoms that the stroke survivor is having and address the areas of the brain affected. A more tailored approach can help ensure the most recovery and speed up the process.

Stroke Exercises

After a stroke has been suffered, post stroke exercises form the foundation for a stroke rehabilitation program. There are some essential points to take into consideration when selecting which stroke exercises you will do or in creating a stroke rehabilitation program. One of the most crucial aspects when putting together a stroke rehabilitation program is the specificity of the exercises we choose to allow in it.

Research have shown that the brain works together like a well organized orchestra, it is indeed made up of many distinct functioning parts with tremendous intercommunication. Some scientists argue that specialization of certain parts of the brain is what enabled humans to develop such sophisticated higher level functioning. Just like an office arrangement that may grow from a one man doing it all to having many people perform a specific role within the organization in the shape of a receptionist, accountant, manager etc. Specialization enables a part to totally focus and devote all it’s resources to one job and to also hopefully to be very good at whatsoever that job may be.

So what does this all have to do with stroke exercises and rehabilitation? Well just as specialization enables the brain function efficiently, when we focus our rehab efforts to a greater extent specifically we can enhance, speed up and make our results more efficient.

At first it may seem a little intimidating, acquiring a  bit of neurology or having a little appreciation of the brain can greatly help in selecting the most beneficial stroke exercises. The brain consists of two hemispheres – a left and a right. Each hemisphere has a inclination to specialize in certain roles. The left hemisphere is our language hemisphere and it is usual that strokes here will produce a language related deficit often referred to as an aphasia. The right hemisphere is to a greater extent visual spatially orientated and damage here often results in what is called neglect syndrome. Neglect syndrome is often displayed by the person who is completely ignorant of a area of space or even a portion or half of his own body resulting in strange behavior such as finishing only one half a plate of food, dressing one side of the body or shaving only on one side of the face.

Immediately armed with this basic information we could be more specific in our practical application of after a stroke or post stroke exercises. Of course any type of physical exercise will be better than none, but if we have an appreciation of the areas affected by the stroke or the deficits the patient is displaying then we can tailor out treatment to better help and rehabilitate the brain.