The New Way Of Stroke Therapy

The use of stroke therapy will certainly form part of the stroke recovery process. This portion of the recovery phase is safe to start once the stroke survivor has stabilized. Once this has occurred the go ahead for stroke exercises will be given. Approximately 30 million people each year in America suffer a stroke. It can happen to anyone regardless of race, gender or age. We have come a long way to learning about how to prevent strokes with better lifestyle choices. Science has also helped us further stroke therapy by discovering new and improved techniques.

For the uninitiated stroke therapy can seem like a very daunting process. While I do not expect people to become a neuroscientist, I feel that some background understanding can go a long way to improving compliance with stroke rehabilitation and increasing motivation to undertake it. Understanding how the brain is wired up for functioning and how it will adapt to the stroke recovery process. This article will discuss three main principles needed for stroke therapy to be successful. The first principle is frequency. When we learn any new skill frequency is the key to helping the brain learn that skill. Secondly the volume and consistency of workload done needs to be enough to stimulate change but not over do it. And lastly the role of specificity. Specificity can lead to increased efficiency and speed stroke recovery.

Frequency is a key governing principle in stroke therapy. It refers to the frequency of the performance of the stroke exercises. The exercises can be seen as a new stress or stimulus for the body, just like lifting weights at the gym is a stress. The body must adapt to the stress but only if it feels a worthwhile requirement to do so. One of the ways to spark that requirement is with frequency of the stress. For example if you went to the gym once and then had one month off between your next session, that probably isn’t going to be enough for the body to think that it must adapt to the activity of what you do in the gym. But if you go to the gym 4 times a week for a month, the body starts to realize this is a regular stress that it should adapt to. The same holds true for your stroke therapy.

As a carry on from the above point, intimately related to frequency is volume and consistency. All these three variable play off one another as stroke recovery occurs through the stroke exercises performed. When we have a frequency that is correct enough to stimulate the brain to change and recover, we also need a volume of work or stress that is adequate to be seen as a necessary stress to adapt to. For example if you went to the gym every day but only walked for 5 minutes on the treadmill, your cardiovascular system would not get much of a work out. On the other hand if you do too much volume of workload then you exhaust the body’s recovery capabilities. So it is a bit of a fine balancing act.

In conjunction with the above mentioned principles, you must add consistency to the mix for the best stroke therapy. The application of consistency over a period of time will yield the best stroke recovery results. Once again for ease of use we will use a gym analogy. If you have the right frequency and volume of exercise in the gym, but you only go for 2 weeks, can your body really change? Maybe a little. But big changes take a longer time frame, most probably 12 weeks. A long period like this of consistency with stroke exercises will ensure the best results.

The last point for stroke therapy is an often overlooked aspect and that is specificity. The brain has many different lobes that are responsible for different functions. When we are able to be specific with our stroke exercises we can really maximize our recovery efforts. We are more efficient with our stroke therapy time and we will yield better results. If you wanted to build bigger muscles you wouldn’t go to the gym and run on the treadmill and not lift any weights? It just doesn’t make sense. Yet time and time again, I see the application of outdated protocols or therapies or misguided good intention in the design of a stroke therapy program. This can consist of poor quality stroke exercises or exercises that are not appropriate for the individual.

This article serves as a basis on the guiding principles of a stroke therapy program. Getting the right balance of all these keys will ensure the best results. I encourage people interested in stroke recovery or needing stroke rehabilitation to get up to date with the latest exercises and learn to be specific in your application of exercises for each individual as this will result in maximizing stroke recovery potential.

For more expert information on stroke therapy, go to author John Hamilton’s website which is all about the most effective stroke exercises.
John Hamilton
Health Practitioner, Stroke Rehabilitation Specialist and Author of The Stroke Rehab Handbook.

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