Strokes are serious and potentially fatal events that can happen at any time. Strokes are very common more than 750,000 occurring every year in the United States. There are two main types of strokes. The first is an ischemic stroke where the blood vessels carrying blood to the brain and is blocked, usually via a clot. These strokes are the most common and usually not fatal but may have long-term effects. The second is a hemorrhagic stroke, in which there is a rupture to the blood vessel causing blood to leak around the brain. Depending on the severity, these may become fatal very quickly. This happens when someone has a brain aneurysm or a weak blood vessel begins to leak in the brain. For those people who survive a stroke, a return to a normal life may or may not be possible depending on severity. However, for many Physical Therapy and neurologic rehab are key to returning a patient to their life and what they love to do.
There are a handful of corresponding disabilities that are most common with stroke. Partial or complete paralysis, increased sensory pain, challenges with memory and the ability to focus. You may also have problems understanding and using language as well as a variety of potential emotional disorders. With the variety of complications after a stroke, it is imperative that the patient and their doctors identify the best types of therapy.
The primary goal of Physical Therapy is to restore as much function as possible. When someone suffers from a stroke, there may be permanent damage to that area of the brain. This damage can be minor and have a minimal impact on a person’s quality of life or it can be quite debilitating. One potential side effect is that motor skills become difficult or impossible because of the stroke. It’s also possible that other body parts learn to compensate for the reduced level of functionality.
After a stroke and an assessment of the damage, rehabilitation starts rather quickly. The shorter amount of time between the stroke and rehabilitation, the better the odds are for a greater recovery. Rehabilitation usually starts in the hospital within a day or two of the incident. The patient can then expect in-home therapy, skilled nursing facility and finally progression to outpatient clinical Physical Therapy.
Your typical orthopedic injury may require one to three different types of specialists. But with a stroke, you will likely engage with your physician, neurologist, physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a social worker, and speech language pathologist. Because of the wide variety of necessary therapists, it is important for the patient’s support team to have regular communication and agree on what “success” looks like.
Unlike a lot of injuries that follow the similar protocols, each person we work with who has suffered from a stroke requires their own unique rehabilitation plan. Extreme patience, flexibility, and a strong desire to succeed are all paramount. Studies have shown that people suffering from a stroke may show improvements at least into their 3rd to 5th years after. We are committed to working with you, your physician, and your entire recovery team in order to maximize functionality and return you to the most normal life possible. If you, or someone you know has recently experienced a stroke and is curious about rehabilitation process, do not hesitate to give us a call or stop by for a visit to find out how we may help.
Written by: Joshua C. Anderson, PTA, CKTP, Cert. ASTYM