How to Recover after a Stroke: The Basics of Rehabilitation
A brief overview of what to expect after a stroke.
A stroke is one of the leading causes of serious, long-term disability. In the United States alone, more than 795,000 people have a new or recurrent stroke each year. Strokes can happen to anyone at any age and for many different reasons. If you find yourself in this situation, it's important that you know what steps to take to recover from a stroke as quickly as possible. We will discuss everything you need to get started with your recovery from a stroke.
What to Do First?
After initial emergency care to minimize the damage of a stroke, you may be wondering what's next? Firstly, your doctor will want to make sure you're medically stable and your health is well managed to prevent the risk of injury or another stroke. Once this is done, you will be cleared to start rehabilitation as soon as day one after being treated for your stroke. Of course, this ultimately depends on the severity and type of stroke.
Why Rehab for Stroke is so Important
The sooner you can start the recovery process after a stroke the better. You will be experiencing a variety of deficits depending on which area of your brain was most affected. This could range from difficulties speaking and confusion to weakness that affects your ability to safely complete daily activities. Thankfully, with comprehensive rehabilitation you can expect to slowly regain some, or maybe even all, of the function you have lost. Additionally, your therapists will help you learn how to adapt so that you can stay as independent as possible (often with the use of specialized rehab tools).
Getting the Most Out of Your Recovery
When you begin stroke rehab, you will be working with three primary providers: an occupational therapist, physical therapist, and speech-language pathologist. This can be done at home, in a clinic, or in a specialized facility depending on your needs. Regardless of the setting, they will work as a team with you to improve every affected aspect of your health. To know where to start, they will evaluate your ability to move around, speak, problem solve, and safely complete daily activities (think cooking, laundry, showering, etc.). From there, the hard work will truly begin.
What to Expect as You Recover
Damage to the brain can slowly heal, with time and the right treatment. The level of recovery you can attain depends a lot on the severity of the initial damage, but also a variety of other factors for example your age, overall health, and more. When you work with a rehab team, you can expect to make gradual gains toward your recovery goals. You can expect to participate in daily treatment that involves one or more of the following techniques: exercise (strengthening and stretching), re-learning how to complete daily tasks like walking, bed mobility, standing up, and sitting down, and cognitive therapy.
The Road to Stroke Recovery
All of the treatment sessions you go through will help you to rebuild damaged neural pathways. Each time you make progress with your speech, cognition, and movement you are paving the way to better health and independence. The length of time it takes to recover and how much you will regain is unknown. All you can do is put your best foot forward each day and trust the rehab process each step of the way.