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An occupational therapist helps a stroke patient balance as part of rehabilitation.

Can stroke rehabilitation help patients regain lost skills?

April 24, 2022 Posted in: Blogs , English

You may be familiar with the signs of a stroke and how to  “Think F.A.S.T.”  in the event of an emergency. But do you know what recovery entails? It can be daunting to think about what life looks like after damage to the brain from a stroke, but there is hope. A dedicated team including occupational, physical, and speech therapists, in addition to doctors and other health care professionals, can help patients rebuild lost skills and gain some more independence. 

Understanding the aftermath of stroke 

Just as every person is unique, so are the symptoms each stroke survivor experiences. The extent of disability depends on how long it took to receive care and which brain circuits were damaged.

Some common effects of stroke include: 

  • Physical issues 

    • Numbness, tingling, or pain in certain parts of the body

    • Loss of coordination, balance, or movement

    • Weakness

    • Paralysis 

    • Incontinence 

    • Issues with vision 

    • Problems with swallowing

    • Loss of feeling throughout the body

  • Mental concerns 

    • Difficulty focusing or comprehending things

    • Difficulty controlling emotions 

    • Inability to communicate thoughts through speech, comprehend language, or both

    • Changes to behavior

    • Memory loss 

    • Mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, anger, and frustration 

Side effects may differ depending on which side of the brain experienced damage since different parts of the brain control different functions. For example, if someone’s stroke occurred on the right side of their brain, they may have more difficulty with the left side of their body and vice versa. Other region-specific concerns may include: 

  • Right brain

    • Issues with vision

    • Impulsiveness

  • Left brain 

    • Issues with language 

    • Cautiousness 

However, strokes in the brain stem can cause damage on both sides of the brain. 

What does a post-stroke care plan look like? 

Each person’s post-stroke care journey will look different, as it will be tailored to their symptoms, lifestyle, and living situation. In addition to medical care from a neurologist, primary care physician, and more, people may require care from speech, occupational, and physical therapists. 

Physical therapy for stroke patients 

Physical therapy for stroke patients focuses on helping them overcome pain, regain mobility, build motor skills, and increase endurance. A physical therapist will determine a patient’s current state and develop a customized plan to help them in the areas they need it most. 

There are two main types of therapy: manual stretching and exercise. With manual stretching, a physical therapist will gently move arms or legs that a patient has minimal or no control over. This can reduce the pain that comes from lack of use. Exercise, on the other hand, requires active participation from the patient and involves going through repetitive motions as set by the therapist. 

Occupational therapy for stroke patients 

Occupational therapy for stroke patients focuses on helping them be able to do their typical activities of daily living, from bathing to eating. 

Our occupational therapists can also help you optimize your home to make everyday life easier. This may include recommendations to add bars to the shower to prevent falls, optimize lighting, or even rearrange furniture to make everyday activities easier. 

Speech therapy for stroke patients 

While speech therapy may sound like it’s just to help patients speak, there are a couple of areas of it that can be helpful to stroke patients, including:

  • Speaking - For patients who have difficulty talking after a stroke, a speech therapist can help them learn other methods of communication, as well as rebuild their ability to speak and comprehend language. 

  • Swallowing - For patients whose stroke affected their ability to swallow correctly, speech therapists can help find new ways to accomplish this long-familiar task. 

Navigating life after stroke 

Your network of doctors, including a neurologist and primary care physician, can help identify the side effects of your stroke and refer you to the right therapists for your needs. And while we’ve solely discussed the mental and physical symptoms, there can also be emotional ones. Your doctor can refer you to a therapist to discuss any fear, anger, frustration, or sadness you may be feeling. 

You can also take solace in knowing you are not alone. St. Luke’s Health hosts stroke support group meetings for survivors and their loved ones in Downtown Houston and The Woodlands.

If you or a loved one has recently experienced a stroke, schedule an appointment with a St. Luke’s Health neurologist today. Our team is passionate about helping patients navigate life after a stroke. 



NCBI | Hemispheric Differences in Ischemic Stroke: Is Left-Hemisphere Stroke More Common?

NIH | Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet

American Stroke Association | Effects of Stroke

Healthline | Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: What to Know

American Stroke Association | Personality Changes Post Stroke

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