Many stroke survivors question whether stroke recovery is possible. At the same time, they want to know how they can recover quickly after a stroke. Although stroke recovery looks different for everyone, there are still fundamental things you should know for your faster stroke recovery.
In this post, we’ll explain what’s important in stroke rehabilitation and how long it takes to recover after a stroke to recover quickly. Also, You can see what skills are expected to improve during stroke rehabilitation.
Table of contents
- What’s important to recover after a stroke?
- What can a patient expect to see during stroke rehabilitation?
- Stroke Therapy and Rehabilitation Activities
- Stroke Recovery Timeline
- Is it possible to stroke recovery at home?
- Now, can I fully and quickly recover after a stroke?
What's important to recover after a stroke?
Stroke recovery is different for every person. After someone survives after a stroke, their recovery starts that day and can continue for several years. The severity of the stroke impacts how a person’s recovery will go.
- Slow and Unpredictable
Recovery after stroke starts with making goals with your physical, social, and emotional aspects of your life. You will make changes to your life to prevent additional strokes along with focusing on life long recovery. Patients and caregivers will have to understand that the recovery is slow and unpredictable. No one can really map out how a person will truly recover from a stroke because the way our brain heals is so complex. Medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and therapists can make only an educated guess of how a person will recover based on the location and severity of the stroke.
- Need Support from Family and Friends
Support from family and friends is a huge component during the recovery process. They give the person a sense of belonging to the world and purpose to life they had prior to the stroke. Patients who are recovering from a stroke need to feel connected more than ever to help increase the motivation to push through the hardest moments of their rehabilitation process. Family involvement also allows for better education and training to happen so the patient can return home when medically appropriate. Doctors, nurses, and therapists can train the family/caregivers in how to best care for the patient so they can return to their home environment safely.
- Time and Intensity
Stroke rehab will help increase recovery allowing a person to get back to living a full life. Rehabilitation focuses on high intensity repetitions which drive the key term of neuroplasticity which doctors and therapists focus on. Through rehab you’ll focus on learning new skills or relearning old skills. The biggest skills that are important to relearn after a stroke are motor skill learning, mobility skills, cognitive training and activities of daily living.
Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists focus on intensity exercises that will set a person up for success in relearning these important skills. A patient will start experiencing stroke rehabilitation as soon as they become medically stable in the hospital to increase the recovery process. The biggest factors for people in the recovery process are time and intensity.
Does a brain really recover after a stroke?
You may have heard that the brain can be recovered after a stroke. Do you know how it happens? It’s because of brain neuroplasticity. Although it is impossible to fully reverse the damage, current research has shown that the brain is capable of relearning lost skills even years after a stroke.
The word Neuroplasticity is a fancy way of saying that the brain (neuro) can change (plasticity). After a stroke, neuroplasticity can help the brain to work around the damaged areas in order to regenerate, re-establish, and rearrange the neural connections related to function.
In order to retrain the brain after a stroke, it is important to strengthen the neural pathways that control all of these behaviors and movements by doing repetitive exercises. The more repetitive exercises and movements one does, the stronger the pathways in the brain will become. This is called neuroplasticity.
What can a patient expect to see during stroke rehabilitation?
Every stroke is different and will affect people differently based on their severity and which part of the brain that stroke affects. Here are some examples of the common changes after stroke.
Weakness or paralysis to the one side of the body
The stroke may cause a weakness or paralysis on your body. You should focus on regaining these weakened muscles, so you can get back to your daily activities independently.
The brain controls critical thinking, judgment, reasoning abilities, and judgment, therefore, having a stroke on the left side of the brain can cause someone to have varying levels of cognitive impairments.
It’s important to keep working to improve these cognitive skills because it’s highly related to your safety. Occupational therapists or speech and language therapists can help you regain these abilities.
Speech and Languages Skills
Since the brain controls language skills, many people who have suffered from a left-sided stroke may have difficulties in speaking or understanding language. And it is called Aphasia.
Speech and language therapists can help you learn how to speak coherently and clearly. They may teach you other communication ways if your condition is severe.
Stroke can affect a part of your body’s ability to feel sensory inputs. You may have difficulties feeling the heat, cold, or pressure if your sensory ability is damaged. Therapists can work with you to help your body adjust to the change.
The left side of the brain controls all oral functions which include chewing and swallowing. After a left-sided stroke one may have trouble chewing and swallowing. One may be put on a feeding tube until they are able to relearn how to swallow or chew. Therapists can work with you to help your swallowing ability to regain.
After having a stroke on the left side of the brain it is common for someone to suffer from visual impairments in the right eye. It is common for someone to lose half of their visual field in their right eye which is called hemianopia. One may also present with neglect to the right side of the body which is called visuospatial neglect.
The main goal of stroke rehabilitation is to improve or relearn these weakened skills after suffering a stroke. You can be independent and back to your living life by improving or restoring your weakened or lost skills.
Stroke Therapy and Rhabilitation Activities
During the therapy process you can expect to see things involving physical and technology-assisted physical activities.
Physical Activities may include but not limited to:
- Motor-Skill Exercises that focus on improving muscle strength and conditioning. An example of this would be a speech therapist doing swallowing exercises to increase a patient's ability to eat.
- Mobility Training that teaches a patient to relearn how to walk again along with learning to use mobility aids such as a cane, walker, wheelchair or ankle/knee braces. After having a stroke a patient may experience drop foot and need an ankle foot orthosis to help correct the deficit.
- Constraint-Induced Therapy which takes the unaffected limb and restrains it while you practice functional movements with your affected limb. This type of therapy helps force a patient to use their affected limb instead of forgetting about it.
- Range of Motion Therapy provides exercises and treatments to help address increase muscle tone and spasticity to increase functional range of motion. Examples that patients may see are hemi slides for the upper extremity using a towel/sheet on a table top.
Technology-Assisted Therapy include but not limited to:
- Functional Electrical Stimulation can help stimulate weak muscles to promote a contraction which will help with muscle re-education.
- Robotic Technology will help impaired limbs perform repetitive motions helping increase muscle re-education for functional gains.
- Wireless Technology helps monitor post stroke activity to allow a patient to see the functional movement they have.
- Virtual Reality Technology uses video games and other computer based activities that allow patients to interact with simulated or real time activities within their environment.
Stroke Recovery Timeline
- Within 3 hours
If you suffer a stroke, it is very important to receive medical attention as soon as you exhibit any warning signs as each second is crucial for survival. Stroke is a severe medical emergency and if a person does not receive medical attention right away they are at greater risk for permanent brain damage or death.
Tissue Plasminogen Activator(tPA) can help decrease the amount of damage done after sustaining a stroke but can only be administered within 3 hours of showing warning signs. Therefore it is very important to get help as quickly as you can in order to allow for the most successful recovery!
- First Few Weeks After a Stroke
The typical length of a hospital stay after a stroke is five to seven days. During this time, the stroke care team will evaluate the effects of the stroke, which will determine the rehabilitation plan.
The first five to six weeks of stroke recovery are the most intensive. Intense physical and occupational therapy will be recommended five or six days per week. During this time patients will go through inpatient or outpatient therapy, contingent on their condition and accessibility to a rehabilitation center. There may also be more options like receiving in-home physical and occupational therapy treatment.
- Three Months
According to the Johns Hopkins stroke rehabilitation specialist April Pruski, The first three months of recovery are when a patient will see the most improvement, and gains may happen rapidly over time. During this time, most patients will enter and complete an inpatient rehab program and improve their abilities through outpatient therapy sessions.
- Six Months
It’s still important to do continuous and repetitive stroke rehabilitation within 6 months although the stroke survivor’s skill and ability is not fully recovered in 3 months. A stroke survivor’s ability to improve during this period relies on their individual effort and the support of their friends, family, and doctors. A coordinated effort among specialists can facilitate further progress months and years down the line. While improvement may take longer for some patients, there’s still hope for small advances.Two Years
Some stroke survivors who have Aphasia after suffering a stroke can take up to two years to fully regain their speaking ability. (25 to 40 percent)
Is it possible to stroke recovery at home?
Now, you may wonder if you can do your stroke recovery at home. Because there are some restrictions like time or money to start every therapies and exercises for your faster stroke recovery.
You’ll probably start your stroke rehabilitation in the hospital, but you already know that stroke recovery is a long-term journey. So you should find another option for your better living life. And it would be great if you can start your stroke recovery at home.
Here are some options you can choose before you leave the hospital to determine the best rehabilitation setting. The options include:
- Outpatient units. Some of the hospitals or clinics offer a stroke rehab outpatient program. You may spend a few hours at the facility a couple of days a week for your stroke recovery.
- Skilled nursing facilities. You may want to stay at nursing facilities for intense therapy options. But please check out if the facility specializes in stroke rehabilitation before you select.
- Stroke Recovery at-home programs. Doing your stroke recovery at home makes your living life with greater flexibility than other options. You can be stable in your home and do your rehab repetitively without any place movements. Some home-based therapy spends less than outpatients units or skilled nursing facilities.
The rehabilitation after a stroke begins after doctor’s assessment and treatments in patient’s conditions. You should choose which options fits to their condition and design the stroke rehab journey to help the survivor reclaim their independence and return their previous daily life as soon as possible.
Now, can I fully and quickly recover after a stroke?
According to the National Stroke Association, 10 percent of people who have a stroke recover almost completely, with 25 percent recovering with minor impairments. Another 40 percent experience moderate to severe impairments that require special care. And 10 percent require long-term care in a nursing home or other facility. This means that there are differences based on their severity and treatment. But you can make your stroke recovery faster and as much as possible. As you saw, there is a concept called neuroplasticity!
These are just a few things a patient may experience during their rehabilitation process. The best advice for a person who has survived a stroke is to seek high intensity therapy as quickly as possible. This will increase the chances of living life to the fullest. As you come to understand the best options for you or a loved one’s rehab journey, don’t miss the opportunity to check out Neofect Home Rehab Solutions. Neofect Home Rehab products are clinically proven to improve hand and arm functionality at home with fun and engaging activities.
To learn more, (888) 623-8984 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- June LeeClinical Manager / Physical Therapist