Getting back on your feet is likely one of your top concerns after a stroke, and stroke rehabilitation, also called stroke rehab, can help. The goal of a stroke rehabilitation program is to help you relearn skills lost when stroke damaged part of your brain. Participating in stroke rehabilitation helps you regain independence and improve your quality of life.
The severity of stroke complications and each person's ability to recover lost abilities varies widely. However, stroke rehabilitation can usually help you achieve the best long-term outcomes.
What's involved in stroke rehab?
Stroke rehabilitation typically begins while you are still in the hospital, and usually continues after one is discharged home or to a skilled nursing facilty. It may include some or all of the following therapies:
- Therapy for communication disorders can help you regain lost abilities in speaking, listening, writing and comprehension.
- Strengthening motor skills involves using exercises to help improve your muscle strength and coordination.
- Mobility training may include learning to use walking aids, such as braces, walkers or canes, to support part of your body's weight while you relearn how to walk.
- Range of motion therapy uses exercises and other treatments to help lessen muscle tension (spasticity) and regain range of motion.
- Psychological therapy may involve antidepressant medications, counseling with a mental health professional and participation in support groups.
- Constraint-induced therapy, also known as "forced-use" therapy, involves restricting use of an unaffected limb while you practice moving the affected limb. Forcing you to use the affected arm or leg can help improve its function.
- Electrical stimulation involves using electricity to stimulate weakened muscles, causing them to contract. This may help with muscle re-education in some individuals.
- Mirror Box Training is very effective for treating stroke patients. These devices can help to improve motor functions in affected limbs.
- Body weight supported treadmill training is used to achieve task-specific gait training in stroke patients.
When should stroke rehabilitation begin?
Stroke rehabilitation should begin as soon as possible after a stroke. The first priority is to stabilize your medical condition and get life-threatening conditions under control. Doctors also take measures to prevent another stroke and limit any stroke-related complications. However, once these steps have been taken, it's common for stroke rehabilitation to start during your acute hospital stay. The sooner you begin stroke rehabilitation, the more likely you are to regain lost abilities and skills.
How long does stroke rehabilitation last?
The duration of your stroke rehabilitation depends on the severity of your stroke and related complications. While some stroke survivors recover quickly, most stroke survivors need some form of stroke rehabilitation long term, possibly months or years after their stroke. Your stroke rehabilitation plan will change during your recovery as you relearn skills and your needs change.
The length of time you spend doing stroke rehabilitation during each therapy session varies depending on your recovery, severity of your symptoms and responsiveness to therapy.