A stroke occurs when an artery in the brain becomes blocked, interrupting blood supply and killing vital tissues in the brain. When this happens, brain damage can occur, which drastically alters a person’s ability to do some of the most basic of functions, such as walking, bathing, or speaking. While damage to the brain cannot be reversed, exercise can help a person regain lost ability.
Two of the most common issues with movement that a person deals with after a stroke:
· Paralysis happens when brain signals to certain muscle groups have been damaged and no longer occur. The result is inability to move the affected muscle group.
· Spasticity is muscle resistance and stiffness that usually occurs in the arms, fingers, and legs. Like paralysis, it is a result of damaged brain signals.
Stroke recovery and rehabilitation are a lifelong process, and exercise plays an important role. Exercise is the key to building muscle strength, regaining balance, and increasing flexibility. Strokes range in severity, and so every stroke survivor’s abilities are different, depending on a variety of factors, including how much and what parts of the brain were damaged. It is important to find exercises that fit your ability and will not cause overexertion.
Exercises that are good for stroke survivors include:
· Walking on a daily basis improves strength, balance, and endurance.
· Bending improves range of motion and balance.
· Stretching improves flexibility.
· Swimming is gentle on the body because it is a nonimpact exercise. Not only is it a great strength builder, but the feeling of weightlessness caused by water is also good for relearning balance and movement.
It is advisable to have a spotter or a partner while you exercise, particularly when swimming. Falling is common after a stroke because of altered balance and muscle control. A spotter can help to prevent dangerous falls. Occupational therapists specialize in helping people regain abilities that are needed on a daily basis. Many stroke survivors will spend some time with an occupational therapist so that they can learn how to perform specific exercises which will help them to regain ability. Often family members and caretakers have opportunity to interact with therapists and learn how they can help stroke survivors exercise down the road. For a guide to post-stroke exercises, visit the National Stroke Association’s website for a downloadable recovery guide.
While stroke most often affects older people, do not think that a young person cannot fall victim to this condition. Pasco County is home to a wide range of residents from an age standpoint and all residents must be aware of the facts that surround stroke. It is also important to be aware of the best places to seek treatment for a stroke. Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point has a Stroke Center that has been accredited by the Joint Commission for its dedication to properly treating this dangerous condition. For more information or for a free medical referral, simply call 1-888-741-5119.
HOPE: The Stroke Recovery Guide (National Stroke Association)
PDF: Hope Stroke Recovery Guide (National Stroke Association)
Post Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)