Stroke Rehabilitation Therapy

Rehabilitation actually starts in the hospital as soon as possible after the stroke. In patients who are stable, rehabilitation may begin within two days after the stroke has occurred, and should be continued as necessary after release from the hospital.

Depending on the severity of the stroke, rehabilitation options include:

  • Home therapy.
  • Home with outpatient therapy.
  • A rehabilitation unit in the hospital.
  • A subacute care unit.
  • A rehabilitation hospital.
  • A long-term care facility that provides therapy and skilled nursing care.

The goal in rehabilitation is to improve function so that the stroke survivor can become as independent as possible. This must be accomplished in a way that preserves dignity and motivates the survivor to relearn basic skills that the stroke may have taken away - skills like eating, dressing and walking.

Types of stroke rehabilitation

Physical Therapy (PT)

Will help to restore physical functioning and skills that you need to get out of bed and walk. The therapy team will identify specific exercises to address your needs. Your therapist will train you to use new devices, such as a wheelchair, walker or cane that can assist you with mobility. Physical therapists also help the patient’s family by teaching them how to assist the patient and encourage a safe environment. There are many impairments that occur with a stroke that may benefit from physical therapy. Some of the common ones are weakness/paralysis on one side of your body, decreased balance, foot drop and overall unsteady gait.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Will also help to restore physical functioning, with a focus on everyday tasks such as eating, toileting, dressing and bathing. The Occupational Therapist will educate you on adaptive devices that will allow you to perform these tasks with less assistance from others. They will also work closely with the family to provide education on how to assist the patient at home. The therapists will instruct you on specific exercise programs to assist with your needs. Impairments that commonly lead to an occupational therapy referral are weakness/paralysis on one side of your body, difficulty following directions/sequences and visual disturbances.

Speech Language Pathology

Is another major rehabilitative therapy. Some stroke survivors are left with aphasia, an impairment of language and speaking skills in which the stroke survivor can think as well as before the stroke, but is unable to get the right word out or is unable to process words coming in. Aphasia is usually caused by a stroke on the left side of the brain. Speech Language pathology can teach the aphasic stroke survivor and his or her family members methods for coping with this frustrating impairment. Speech Language pathologists also work to help the stroke survivor cope with memory loss and swallowing problems caused by the stroke.

Rehabilitation Research

Many stroke research studies are being conducted in the United States and around the world. Many of these studies are drug studies that offer hope for finding a medication that can reduce the severity of stroke, reverse the bad effects or even prevent stroke. Other studies that focus on stroke rehabilitation offer hope for stroke recovery over the course of a lifetime. Stroke survivors and caregivers are encouraged to visit this page regularly for updates: www.ninds.nih.gov.

Source: National Stroke Association, www.stroke.org