Did you know that strokes rank as the No. 5 cause of death among all Americans and the No. 1 cause of serious long-term disability for adults? Officially called cerebrovascular accidents (CA) or a “brain attack,” strokes occur when blood flow to a part of the brain is stopped either by the blockage or the rupture of a blood vessel.
A stroke typically occurs without warning, and few families are fully prepared to address the impact it can have on the victim and loved ones closest to the victim. They can range from mild to severe, and in most cases will trigger the loss of mobility and movement.
Consider just a few of the effects a stroke can have on its victims:
- Muscle weakness and paralysis: According to the Stroke Association, 80% of stroke patients incur problems with their motor skills. Many experience paralysis on one side of their body;
- Changes in range of motion;
- Impaired vision and/or speaking ability; and
- Anxiety, mood changes and loss of confidence.
The good news? For many, there is hope for at least partial recovery. There are numerous therapies available to help rehabilitate stroke patients. Post-stroke rehabilitation is important, and the sooner it can begin, the better. Stroke physical therapists can help patients relearn motor skills, like walking, sitting, standing and lying down.
Motor-skill exercises, mobility training, range-of-motion therapy are frequently effective methods in the post-stroke recovery process. Moreover, some physical therapists specializing in stroke and other kinds of brain trauma can help patients learn complex body movements and help improve patients’ balance and coordination. Exercises recommended by a physical therapist can help boost morale, improve brain function, relieve stress and even help prevent additional strokes from happening.
Of course, each stroke is different, and you will want to customize the plan that best fits the needs of the patient. You’ll want to find a physical therapist that works closely with the medical doctors, interviews the family and allows you to be involved in the overall rehabilitation plan. Patients and families should be sure to ask plenty of questions, especially with regard to goals and timetables, in order to set realistic expectations for the rehab process.
Depending on the level of disability, some technology-assisted physical activities may be useful, such as electrical stimulation, robotic technology and even video games (virtual reality) that can help patients interact with a simulated, real-time environment.