Mind Over Matter:
Regaining Movement After a Stroke
A stroke is considered a “brain attack,” and blood to a certain part of the brain is cut off. When the brain is deprived of blood, oxygen cannot reach that region of the brain, and the brain cells will begin to die. This leads to loss of memory or muscle control.
Strokes are serious, life-altering occurrences, and they can impact the person's ability to move their arms and legs – among many other issues.
Every year, 800,000 people either have a new or recurrent stroke.
You can try and retrain your brain after a stroke, and it’s a matter of mind over matter for many people.
How can you recover from a stroke?
Passive Exercises to Retrain the Brain
The brain needs to be retrained, and this is done through passive exercises that are meant to rewire the brain. The goal is to reconnect your mind and muscles, and this is through neuroplasticity.
Repetition is key here, and the idea is simple: continue making movements to try and reconnect the brain and muscles.
Passive exercises are where the person will start first, and this is done through trying to make that mind-muscle connection that doesn’t exist anywhere. Try and visualize the movement, and use your good limb to assist the movement of the limb.
Perhaps the left-side of the body is paralyzed, and if this is the case, you may use your right arm to lift the left arm up above your head, visualizing your body doing it in the process. This is the very beginning of your therapy, and it will help the body “relearn” movement.
As your strength increases and nerve connections are made, you can move into active exercises.
This may require you to use a 'sit to stand lift' initially, but as your body becomes stronger, you may be practicing basic sitting and standing movements.
When necessary, sensory re-education will be key to a person’s recovery from a stroke. The process of re-education will focus on your sensation in your effected limb. This is a slow process, but over time, you’ll be able to train your brain to regain feeling in the limb.
You may have lost all feeling, or you may not be able to feel hot or cold anymore.
Damage to the parietal and occipital lobes, or right side of the brain likely occurred to cause sensory loss. Therapy and retraining will often include:
- Touch therapy, which will have the person pick up different objects from a table, without looking, and feel them to try and determine what type of texture is present.
- Texture hunting to try and feel the difference between textures and find the right texture.
- Temperature relearning requires the person to relearn what hot and cold means, and this will be placing hands under cold or hot water for a period of 30 seconds to try and determine the difference in temperature.
Over time, the brain will make these new connections to allow you to properly distinguish between hot and cold, or distinguish between different textures.
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