Stroke rehabilitation (rehab) helps you recover from a stroke. A stroke happens when blood flow to part of the brain is suddenly slowed or stopped. The part of the brain that loses its blood supply stops working. You may have trouble using the part of the body that is controlled by the part of the brain that is damaged. Rehab helps you learn different ways to do the things that you could do before the stroke.
Rehab should start as soon as possible after a stroke, usually in the first few days. Most of the recovery that is possible will happen in the first 6 to 12 months after the stroke.
What problems does a stroke cause?
When you have a stroke, some parts of your brain are damaged and never get better. Other parts of your brain may be damaged for a short time and may start working normally again after the stroke. Sometimes, a different part of the brain takes over for a damaged part.
You may have trouble swallowing, speaking, or understanding what others are saying. One side of your face or body may be weak, or you may be unable to move some parts of your body. You may have trouble thinking, remembering, or solving common problems. You may find that you cry or laugh more freely that you did before. Depression is common. It is important for your family to understand that many problems, even personality changes, may be caused by a stroke. You need their support as you recover. Stroke rehab can help you and your family during this time.
What are the different kinds of stroke rehab?
Depending on how the stroke has affected you, rehab may include different kinds of therapy.
Physical therapy can help your muscles get strong again. Not all muscles weakened by stroke will recover completely. You will need to learn ways, like using a brace, cane, or walker to move safely with weak or paralyzed muscles.
Occupational therapy may help if you have problems doing things like feeding yourself, using the toilet, or getting dressed.
Speech therapy may help if you have problems with swallowing, speaking, or understanding words. You may be able to think as well as you could before the stroke, but you may not be able to get the right words out or understand what you are hearing. Speech and language therapists can help with memory loss and other thought problems caused by a stroke.
Counseling or medicine can help if you are depressed.
You will also learn about diet, exercise, and other ways to improve your health and help prevent another stroke. Your healthcare provider will determine what kinds of rehab will best help you.
Depending on how bad the stroke was, your rehab treatments may be:
While you are still in the hospital, a rehab hospital, or at a skilled nursing facility (inpatient rehab)
At a rehab clinic, where you go for treatment (outpatient rehab)
At your home, if itâ€™s hard for you to get to a clinic (usually called home health care)
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-12-08 Last reviewed: 2014-12-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Stroke Rehabilitation: References
Cherney LR, et al. Evidence-based systematic review: effects of intensity of treatment and constraint-induced language therapy for individuals with stroke-induced aphasia. Speech Lang Hear Res. 2008 Oct;51(5):1282-99.
Cruise CM, Sasson N, Lee MHM. Rehabilitation Outcomes in the Older Adult. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine – Volume 22, Issue 2 (May 2006), page 257-267.
Dobkin, Bruce. Principles and Practices of Neurological Rehabilitation, Chapter 48 in Daroff et al, Bradleyâ€™s Neurology in Clinical Practice, 6th Ed, 2012 Saunders.