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Benefits of Physical Therapy After a Stroke

A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted. It can cause a variety of symptoms like weakness, paralysis, speech difficulties, memory loss, cognitive problems and emotional changes.

Physical therapy is an important part of recovery from a stroke. Physical therapy aims to help stroke survivors regain functional mobility and independence. It can help stroke survivors stimulate damaged nerves and muscles, promote circulation to affected areas of the brain to promote healing, learn to move and use their affected body parts as much as possible, regain mobility and strength, as well as to prevent or reduce complications such as muscle stiffness, spasticity, pain and falls.

Physical Therapy After a Stroke

Physical therapy usually begins as soon as possible after the stroke, ideally within two days. The duration and intensity of PT depend on the severity and type of stroke, the medical status of the patient, as well as the individual's goals and needs.

Stroke recovery doesn’t just involve a physical therapist, though. It takes a team of professionals, including a physiatrist (a doctor who specializes in rehabilitation), a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in brain and nervous system disorders), nurses, an occupational therapist, a speech-language pathologist, a dietician, a social worker, a neuropsychologist and a case manager.

The physical therapist will assess strength, balance, coordination, range of motion, sensation, pain and functional abilities. Based on the assessment and the individual's goals, the physical therapist will design a personalized treatment plan that may include interventions like:

  • Exercises to improve muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility

  • Activities to improve balance, posture, gait and mobility

  • Training to use assistive devices such as walkers, canes or wheelchairs

  • Education on how to prevent falls and injuries

  • Manual therapy to relieve pain and spasm

  • Electrical stimulation to activate muscles and nerves

  • Biofeedback to enhance awareness and control of muscle activity

  • Hydrotherapy to use water resistance and buoyancy for exercise

  • Constraint-induced movement therapy to encourage use of the affected limb by

    restricting the unaffected one

  • Mirror therapy to use visual feedback to stimulate movement of the affected limb

Physical therapy after a stroke can take place in different settings. It usually starts in a hospital. The patient may then move thought a subacute care unit and/or an inpatient rehabilitation unit before being discharged home. The patient will then usually receive home health therapy or continue treatment in an outpatient clinic depending on their level of function and needs. The physical therapist will work closely with the stroke survivor and their family to determine the best path for their rehabilitation, and to ensure continuity of care.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has many benefits for stroke survivors, such as:

  • Improving functional mobility and independence

  • Enhancing quality of life and well-being

  • Reducing disability and dependence on others

  • Increasing self-confidence and motivation

  • Preventing or minimizing complications such as contractures, pressure sores or infections

  • Reducing the risk of recurrent stroke or other cardiovascular events

Physical therapy after a stroke can also have positive effects on the brain itself. Research has shown that physical activity can stimulate the growth of new brain cells, formation of new connections between brain cells and growth of new blood vessels in the brain. These processes can help with healing and recovery after stroke.

Physical therapy after stroke is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It requires individualized assessment, planning and evaluation. It also requires active participation and collaboration from the stroke survivor, their family and their caregivers. Stroke recover is a long-term process that requires patience, perseverance and dedication.

However, physical therapy can be rewarding and empowering for stroke survivors. It can help them regain their functional mobility and independence, improve their quality of life and well- being, prevent or reduce complications and make the most of their recovery.

Contact us at 978-452-9252 for more details.

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