How physiotherapy helps in recovering stroke
Your brain is fed by blood carrying oxygen and nutrients through blood vessels called arteries.
Stroke is the term doctors use when blood cannot get to your brain because of a blocked or burst artery, causing your brain cells to die due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients.
Up to 1.9 million brain cells may die every minute when they do not get enough blood.
What is a stroke?
There are two main types of stroke:
Ischemic strokes are caused by a blockage in one of the blood vessels that supply oxygen and other important nutrients to the brain. The majority of strokes are ischemic.
Haemorrhagic strokes occur when blood vessels in the brain leak or rupture, causing bleeding in or around the brain. This can lead to pressure within the head, which can cause damage to the brain.
Strokes can cause long-lasting disability or even death. However, early treatment and preventive measures can reduce the brain damage that occurs because of stroke.
What are the symptoms of stroke?
Every stroke is different. How a stroke affects someone depends on where it happens in the brain, and on how big the stroke is. Signs and symptoms of a stroke may be similar to other conditions; the only way to know for sure is to be seen as soon as possible by an experienced doctor or nurse.
The symptoms of a stroke usually begin suddenly but sometimes develop over hours or days, depending upon the type of stroke.
In both ischemic and haemorrhagic stroke, depending upon the area affected, a person may lose the ability to move one side of their body, the ability to speak, or a number of other functions.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke can be lifesaving.
Classic stroke symptoms can be recalled with the acronym FAST, or BE-FAST with each letter standing for one of the things you should watch for:
- Balance – Is the person having trouble standing or walking?
- Eyes – Is the person having trouble with their vision?
- Face – Sudden weakness or droopiness of the face, or problems with vision
- Arm – Sudden weakness or numbness of one or both arms
- Speech – Difficulty speaking, slurred speech
- Time – Time is very important in stroke treatment. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances are for recovery. Call an ambulance right away.
What are the risk factors for stroke?
There are a number of risk factors for stroke; some of these factors increase the risk of one type of stroke, while others increase the risk of both types.
Ischemic stroke risk factors include the following:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol levels
- Inactive lifestyle and lack of exercise
- Current or past history of blood clots
- Family history of cardiac disease and/or stroke
Haemorrhagic stroke risk factors include the following:
- High blood pressure
- Illegal drug use
- Use of warfarin or other blood thinning medicines
Following a stroke, you should be assessed by a physiotherapist as soon as possible
After a stroke, our brains cannot grow new cells to replace the ones that have been damaged, but the brain has the ability to reorganise its undamaged cells and make up for what has been lost. This is called neuroplasticity. This process can be guided by the rehabilitation you receive following your stroke, and your physio will provide expert guidance on how to relearn movement and regain function.
Physiotherapists specialise in treating issues related to motor and sensory impairments; helping to restore physical functioning by evaluating and treating problems with movement, balance, and coordination exercises.
A physiotherapy program for stroke rehabilitation may include exercises to strengthen muscles, improve coordination, and regain range of motion.
During physiotherapy you may do exercises to strengthen weak muscles and build up your stamina. Stretching exercises can reduce muscle and joint stiffness. You may also work on specific skills that you need to improve. For example, if you are having difficulty keeping your balance, you may be asked to stand up a lot. If you have difficulty lifting your arm, you will need to do activities that make you lift and use your arm. If you are having difficulty walking you need to walk as much as possible.
You may work on a one-to-one basis with a physiotherapist, particularly on the tasks and the movements you are re-learning to do. You will also have home-based activities to do on your own outside of therapy sessions.
Most people recover quickly in the first weeks after their stroke and when you start physiotherapy, your physio will plan and set goals and exercises with you.
You should have physiotherapy for as long as you need it, ending when you have reached your goals, such as walking or improving your balance.