Like many of you, I have had a family member suffer from a stroke. If you have experienced the same, I’m sure you’re riding a rollercoaster of emotions. Here is a short read to give you basic information about your loved one’s condition and what you can do to be their stroke of luck.
First & Foremost: Know the warning signs of a stroke to get your loved one help as soon as possible and increase their chances of recovery. F.A.S.T signs of a stroke: Face, Arm, Speech, and Time. Stroke is a broad, complex issue, Therefore everything about strokes will not be covered in this article. However My Smart Success PT colleagues further expound on pertinent information about strokes. Rebekah James, explains the major risk factors of a stroke, while Cindy Zhang educates on the F.A.S.T signs of a stroke and multiple treatment options after suffering a stroke.
Positivity: Stay hopeful. Things can look grim at the beginning, but you cannot predict the recovery of a stroke.
Types of Stroke: There are two types of stroke: a clot (ischemic) or a bleed (hemorrhagic). During an ischemic stroke, a vessel in the brain is constricted or blocked by a clot that restricts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, causing brain cells to die. In a hemorrhagic stroke, there may be a clot as well, but in this case, the clot causes a build up of pressure and ultimately ruptures a vessel that bleeds into the brain. It is so important to get into the emergency room ASAP because there is only a small window of time where the symptoms and damage can be stopped before major injury occurs.
Physical Recovery: Most returns occurs in the first 6 months, but recovery does happen after. Many factors influence recovery from a stroke: Where and how much of the brain was affected, health before the stroke, quality of rehab and support, and age. Legs seem to recover better than arms, possibly due to weight-bearing exercises. Weight-bearing is a good way to elicit a contraction by way of reflex responses without direct communication from the impaired section of the brain. Weight-bearing through the arms can also be performed by weight shifting during activities, like reaching behind and overhead.
Mental Recovery: A lot of brain swelling occurs after a stroke. Once swelling subsides, recovery begins and the major effects of the stroke begin to subside. Recovery also occurs when other parts of the brain develop new neuronal connections to the impaired site to gain that function again, called neuroplasticity. You can think of it like a detour during road construction. If a road is blocked due to an accident, traffic will be redirected to a new route so you can successfully reach your destination.
Tone: As time goes on, your family member may begin to develop abnormal muscle contractions, called flexion synergy patterns, spasticity, rigidity, etc. One of the most common of these is spasticity. Spasticity is increased tone, while tone is resistance to passive stretch or strong muscle resistance. We all have a degree of normal tone in our muscles; without it our body would be completely relaxed. However, when the brain is damaged and unable to produce the neuron connections for normal tone, abnormal muscle contractions that respond vigorously to reflexes and fast stretching occur, which can be termed as spasticity.
Language and Emotions: Musculoskeletal problems are often talked about when discussing strokes, but language, which can also be considered a muscle problem, and emotions are often-ignored brain functions also affected by strokes. Speech-Language Pathologists evaluate speaking and comprehension and provide excellent care to stroke patients. If your loved one is experiencing emotional changes due to their stroke, be aware that emotional changes that occur are not of their will but are a by-product of the impairment. Vision can also potentially be affected.
More tips to Help:
Reduce risk of another stroke: Survivors of a stroke are at high risk of having another. Make sure your loved one eats healthy, exercises, takes the proper medication, and has regular physician and physical therapy appointments.
Physical therapy: Neurological rehab centers and physical therapists that are specialized in neurological rehabilitation have very successful outcomes to maximize the recovery of your loved one.
Don’t ignore falls: Falls are common due to weakness after a stroke and have serious consequences. Make sure you check for bruises, fractures, and multiple falls within a short time span to provide the necessary professional help.
Provide emotional support: Your loved one is most likely depressed from the new way they have to live life. Fight depression before it hinders recovery. Provide emotional support to your loved one to combat the depression you and they may be dealing with.
Promote independence: Have your family member perform as much as they can on their own to promote recovery and an internal sense of self-worth for themselves.
Take care of you: Make time for yourself so you can better take care of your loved one.
Dr.Cindy Zhang is the owner of Movement Wellness & Rehab. She graduated from Clarkson University in upstate New York with a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in manual therapy, fitness, nutrition. Dr. Zhang has a gift of connecting with patients, understanding their challenges, effectively communicating treatment plans, and most importantly, motivates them on their road to recovery. Her patients experience her passionate when she is working with them to achieve recovery or fitness goals, through her care, and constant encouragement. Dr. Zhang is trilingual in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese, allowing her to also work with the Chinese community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, trying new foods, and traveling. Dr. Zhang has launched new blog and mini-video tips on her blog and social media channels on many different topics, including improving posture, healthier nutrition, and exercises to prevent injury. Be sure to follow her on social media for more resources. Facebook Instagram
Rebekah James is a 3rd year Doctor of Physical Therapy Student with a passion for fitness, health and wellness, good food, and dancing. Her passion is to work with dancers to prevent injury, treat them properly to get them back on the dance floor or back up in the air. Her dancing background includes Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Charleston, Blues, Balboa, Salsa, and Pole Fitness. She also has interest in circus arts such as lyra, silks, pole tricks, and acro yoga. Her passions inside the physical therapy profession include: aquatic therapy, disability services, disability advocacy, sports conditioning, and global health care. Rebekah has launched her blog and social media channels on topics including physical therapy health & wellness. Facebook Instagram
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Edited: Ffrancesca Famorcan