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Stroke rehabilitation

A stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. This may be as a result of a blood clot that blocks the blood vessels supplying the brain (ischaemic stroke), or it may be a haemorrhagic stroke in which a blood vessel bursts in or around the brain. In either event, the brain is deprived of much-needed oxygen and succumbs to a stroke. Symptoms of a stroke are weakness on one side of the body, loss of motor function, slurred speech, severe headache, blurring or loss of vision and impaired co-ordination.

Stroke rehabilitation can be complex depending on the extent of the injury, and the results can sometimes be unpredictable. Physiotherapy is recommended following a stroke and physiotherapists will often work in a team with other health professionals, including occupational therapists and speech therapists. Following a stroke, a person may present with flaccidity (floppiness or low tone in the muscles) or spasticity (tightness or high tone in the muscles). As physiotherapists, we use various techniques to help rehabilitate patients after stroke.

The goals of physiotherapy will be to:

  • Restore function to affected limbs
  • Improve transfers and gait
  • Provide and fit patients with mobility devices, if necessary
  • Help the patient and re-train them in performing activities of daily living including dressing and self-feeding.
  • Increase range-of-motion of the affected joints
  • Splinting to keep the hand and foot in a functional position if necessary and prevent contractures and deformities from occurring.

Some techniques employed by physiotherapists include:

  • Passive mobilisation to reduce swelling and improve range of movement
  • Stretching exercises to improve flexibility
  • Massage to reduce swelling, relax tight muscles, relieve pain and increase blood flow
  • Electrical stimulation to help stimulate nerve response which may help restore movement to the affected limbs
  • Strengthening exercises to restore muscle strength to weakened muscles

Stroke rehabilitation does not always result in patients regaining complete recovery. However, in most cases, it helps the person become as functional as possible and teaches new ways of living while coping with the effects of the stroke. If you have any concerns, please get in touch with us.


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