What is a Stroke?
A stroke can be defined as a sudden collapse of a section of the brain after blood flow to the affected part of the brain is cut off. This mainly results from the presence of a blood clot in the patient’s bloodstream.
A stroke can occur to a person at any age but it is more prevalent in men and people aged 55 years and above. It can also run in one’s family or result from lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol, diet, poor weight management, smoking, sedentary lifestyles, lack of exercises, and in some cases for no apparent cause.
A stroke can either be mild or severe. The symptoms of stroke also vary depending on the severity of the stroke. In most cases, the condition causes a wide range of upper limb impairments including the following:
- Lost sensations
- Coordination problems
- Altered muscular power
- Altered muscle tone
- Hand and arm dysfunction
- Loss of facial muscle usage.
How Physiotherapy Helps Stroke Survivors
With effective treatment, you can recover from a stroke. Once oxygen is sufficiently restored to your brain after suffering a stroke, the body starts the process of recovering from the damage caused by the stroke and restore muscle function. Your recovery process will largely depend on post-stroke rehabilitation, which usually begins 24 hours after the stroke happens. Physiotherapists who specialise in stroke and other health conditions help to stimulate the affected nerves and muscles to prevent stiffness and maintain blood circulation.
Physiotherapy for stroke comes with customised plans that suit each individual patient. During the first appointment, the physiotherapist will examine your body, refer to the doctor’s notes, and talk to your caregiver or loved ones about symptoms or any setbacks that you may be experiencing. This information will help the physiotherapist to develop the right plan for you with a focus on helping you restore movement and avoid complications.
The physiotherapy exercises will revolve around goals the therapist will have set for you.
The physiotherapist may, for example, start with basic tasks and exercises such as moving safely from the bed to a chair ensuring that your impaired arms are protected from injury. The simple tasks will gradually progress to physical exercises meant to improve balance and help you to re-learn basic movement and coordination skills.
Physiotherapy Treatment Techniques for Stroke Patients
Physiotherapists employ a wide range of treatment techniques to help stroke patients regain normal use of their limbs and muscles. Here are some the common treatment techniques used by physiotherapists on stroke patients:
- Strength training exercises. Medical evidence proves that strength training can significantly improve the functioning of the upper limbs while reducing pain on a patient suffering from a stroke.
- This is a form of therapy that uses wrist-hand motions. It is as effective as manual exercises in helping stroke patients improve coordination and regain lost movements in their hands and arms. When a patient uses orthosis therapy for a long time, he or she may require appropriate treatment to prevent additional problems such as clenched fist and ADL issues.
- Gaming therapy. Computer gaming exercises that are goal oriented have been proven to reduce impairment in the upper limbs in patients who have survived a stroke.
- Virtual Reality therapy. Virtual reality is quite effective in recovery from impaired upper limbs and other motor-related disabilities.
- Mirror therapy. Physiotherapists have demonstrated the efficacy of this technique in restoring motor control and function among patients with stroke related motion and coordination problems.