If you or someone in your family has suffered from stroke, here are some recovery tips for you – all based on science and research.
1. Recovery is always possible, even years after stroke.
Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there in this regard.
Sometime ago, I had a conversation with a patient in his early 40s who suffered from a stroke about 2 years ago. He and his wife had seen a doctor who rather bluntly told him that you cannot get better more than a year after stroke – any recovery is not possible.
The good news is that he is getting better after just one month of rehab. With good and intense proper rehabilitation, patients see recovery years or decades after stroke – they are able to improve their hand function, their arm function, their walking.
Doctors used to think that adult human brain has no capacity for recovery after damage. However, now we know that human brain is capable of regenerating and rewiring itself after suffering from a disease. This is called NEUROPLASTICITY. This is the FACT behind recovery from stroke and improvement in patients with Parkinson’s disease and Dementia / Alzheimer’s.
So NEVER GIVE UP HOPE OF RECOVERY AFTER A STROKE.
2. Repetition is the key to success
Repetition is the #1 driver of success during stroke recovery because repetition of movement drives NEUROPLASTICITY.
For example, you want to improve your hand function after stroke, you need to practice hand exercises repeatedly because each time you move your hand, you are strengthening new connections.
Robotic and technology-assisted rehab is great for ensuring higher number of repetitions compared with manual physiotherapy.
3. Be consistent in your exercises
Consistency means practicing your exercises on a regular basis – at least daily. If you do intense repetitions but off and on, the new connections in your brain will fade and you lose a lot of hard work you did for your recovery.
So make sure to stick to your exercises daily. This is the key to speeding your recovery.
4 .“Use it or Lose it”
You brain works on the principle of “use it or lose it”.
For example, if you have right sided paralysis, it would be natural to stop using your right side and start to do most of your work by the left side. This is the wrong approach. Because, the less you use your paralysed side, the weaker it will get as your brain will start to forget using the paralysed side even more.
So it is extremely important to move your paralysed side every day even if it is a little bit. Even passive movement on a regular basis help. This will help ensure new connections in the brain for the paralysed side.
5. Positive visualization
You brain controls not only your body but also your thoughts. Think positive thoughts about your paralysed side such as “I’m able to move my arm again”, “I’m walking with confidence again”, “I’m confident that I will have good recovery”.
Such thoughts help with formation of new brain connections; in other words, positive thoughts facilitate the process of neuroplasticity.
6. Do not give up too early
After a stroke, your recovery is fastest during the first 3-6 months, and then it slows down. This is called a plateau. At this time, it’s natural to get disappointed and think about giving up.
That would be just the wrong thing to do. This is sign that you should double your efforts because recovery won’t stop as long as you don’t.