Recovery from Stroke or “Brain Attack”

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a “Brain Attack”. It is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Most strokes are caused by a blockage however some can be caused by bleeding in or around the brain. The severity of the symptoms depends on the size of the area of the brain affected, and how long the circulation has been interrupted for. A stroke can affect the way your body works as well as how you think, feel and communicate. It commonly affects one side of the body leaving a weak or numb arm and leg.

It’s vital to know how to spot the warning signs of a stroke in yourself or someone else. Using the FAST test is the best way to do this. 

  • Face: Can the person smile? Has their face fallen on one side?
  • Arms: Can the person raise both arms and keep them there?
  • Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Is their speech slurred?
  • Time: If you see any of these three signs, it’s time to call 999.

(Stroke Association, 2018)

Can you recover from a stroke?

People who survive a stroke are often left with long-term problems caused by injury to their brain. Some people need a long period of rehabilitation before they can recover their former independence, while many never fully recover and need support adjusting to living with the effects of their stroke.

Recovery can occur in two main ways: In the first few weeks or months after stroke, spontaneous recovery can occur as swelling reduces and the body’s normal healing processes continue. Thereafter further improvement can be explained by neuroplasticity. This is the brain’s ability to adapt and compensate for damage by establishing new pathways that can help restore function.

stroke recovery

Neurological Physiotherapy or “Neuro Physio”

A specialist neurological physiotherapist or “neuro physio” is an expert in helping people recover more normal movement and function after neurological injury or disease. They will understand the common problems encountered and the impact that they can have on the life of you and your family. Treatment is focused on maximising the return of movement and encouraging as much independence as possible.

A neuro physio will use the principles of neuroplasticity to guide treatment. The research tells us how we should structure exercise based therapy in terms of intensity, frequency and type of exercise. Therapy will also often involve “hands-on” treatment to provide support, tactile guidance and confidence to move more effectively.

Rehabilitation technologies

New technologies are constantly developing that assist in different parts of the rehabilitation process, from body-weight supported treadmills, to Functional Electrical Stimulation devices that use electrical signals to pull the toes up when learning to walk again, to dynamic orthoses that help a weak or tight hand pick things up again. A good neuro physio can guide you regarding what technologies might be best suited.

Summary

  • If you suspect a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and seek immediate medical attention.
  • If you or someone you know needs help with physical rehabilitation after a stroke, a neuro physio can provide high quality evidenced-based treatment.
  • Rehabilitation technologies can help push the traditional boundaries of rehabilitation.

For further information see:

NHS Choices www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/
Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland  www.chss.org.uk
Stroke Association  
www.stroke.org.uk
Different Strokes  
www.differentstrokes.co.uk