Physical therapy can be very helpful in the days, weeks and months after a stroke. What is most crucial to remember, however, is that quick treatment at a hospital emergency department is the single most important strategy to minimize damage from a stroke. To remember stroke signs, think of the acronym FAST: Face drooping (can the person smile?); Arm weakness (can the person raise his or her arms?); Speech difficulty (can the person say a simple phrase?); Time to call 911 if any answer is “no.”

Unfortunately, chances are good that someone you know will have a stroke—700,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year. Getting a stroke patient to the hospital within three hours of the first symptom allows for the timely administration of t-PA, a drug that dissolves the clot that usually causes stroke, minimizing—sometimes even eliminating—permanent damage.

Some degree of rehabilitation will be necessary for most stroke patients. The most recent studies indicate that improvement can continue for up to 12 months after a stroke. The brain has a remarkable capacity for neuroplasticity—the ability of some nerve cells (neurons) to compensate for damage from injury or illness to other neurons by forming new connections. Physical therapy is crucial to such improvement and should begin after the patient stabilizes in the hospital, as early as 24 to 48 hours after the stroke.

Attainable physical therapy goals in stroke rehabilitation are many, and include

  • improving strength, endurance and range of motion
  • compensating for and improving gait abnormalities
  • avoiding overreliance on the less-affected side of the body
  • improving balance with physical and mental strategies

Physical therapy is one tool to help a stroke survivor recover and adapt; additional tools may include occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychological therapy. If you or a loved one is recovering from a stroke, we can create a rehabilitation program that will help return physical functioning to as normal a level as possible.

Falling for Physical Therapy

Clipping the Wings of a Winged Scapula

Whiplash: Cruising Down the Road to Recovery

Getting Back on Your Feet Following a Stroke

The Right Time to Exercise

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