Approximately 795,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke every year. Of that total, 600,000 are first attacks and 185,000 are recurrent attacks. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the U.S. Fortunately, for those who survive a stroke, there are treatments that can help in their recovery. In this article, we will discuss how outpatient stroke rehabilitation can benefit patients.
What is outpatient stroke rehabilitation?
Outpatient stroke rehabilitation services can be provided for patients who need skilled outpatient intervention at any point after a stroke.
Outpatient rehab can help stroke survivors relearn skills that they lose when part of their brain is damaged. It can also teach survivors new ways of performing tasks to avoid or compensate for any lingering disabilities. For example, learning how to communicate effectively when the patient is unable to express himself verbally or learning how to do everyday tasks using only one hand.
What disabilities can develop from a stroke?
Generally, there are five types of disabilities that result from a stroke. The type and degree of the disability depend on which area of the patient’s brain has been damaged.
Paralysis or problems with motor control
One of the most common disabilities that result from a stroke is paralysis. Usually, the paralysis is on the side of the body that is opposite the side of the brain damaged by the stroke. This paralysis of one side of the body is called hemiplegia. Paralysis may affect the face, one arm, one leg, or the entire side of the body.
Some patients may suffer from weakness on one side of the body instead of paralysis. This type of weakness is called hemiparesis.
Patients with hemiplegia or hemiparesis may have difficulty grasping objects or walking. Other patients suffer from dysphagia or difficulty with swallowing.
People who have suffered a stroke may lose the ability to feel touch, temperature, pain, or position. They may be unable to identify objects by touch and if the disability is severe, the patient may not feel his/her own limb.
Urinary continence is also common after a stroke. Loss of bowel control or constipation may also happen. These are often temporary. Permanent incontinence is rare among stroke patients but it can be devastating for some people.
In some cases, pathways for sensation in the brain are damaged and this causes the transmission of false signals resulting in the sensation of pain in a limb or side of the body that has the sensory deficit. This makes it difficult to treat even with medication.
Some pain does occur after a stroke in some cases. This is not due to any damage in the nervous system but rather to mechanical problems caused by weakness from the stroke. Patients experience moderate to severe pain radiating outward from the shoulder.
Language impairment (aphasia)
Some stroke survivors suffer from language impairment or aphasia. This involves the agility to speak, write, and understand spoken and written language. Some patients sustain damage to a language center known as Broca’s area and this causes expressive aphasia. These patients have difficulty expressing themselves through speaking and writing. Patients who suffer damage to a part of the brain called Wernicke’s area, on the other hand, have receptive aphasia. Although they are able to form sentences that are grammatically correct, things that they say often do not have any meaning. But global aphasia is the most severe. Patients are unable to understand language or use it to express themselves.
Many stroke survivors suffer from memory problems. Some have dramatically shortened attention spans. Others have deficits in short-term memory. In some cases, patients cannot comprehend meaning, make plans, learn new tasks, or engage in complex mental activities. Some patients have problems following a set of instructions.
Several stroke survivors suffer from anxiety and fear. They also feel sad, angry, frustrated, and have a sense of grief for what they have lost physically and mentally. These are natural responses to the psychological trauma of a stroke. However, some personality changes are caused by the physical effects of brain damage.
When should stroke rehabilitation physical therapy start?
Stroke rehab should begin as soon as a stroke patient is stable. Sometimes, this can be as early as 24 to 48 hours after a stroke.
The first stage of therapy after stroke can take place inside an acute-care hospital. This is also known as inpatient rehabilitation. However, it depends on the unique circumstances of each patient.
Inpatient rehab or acute rehab typically requires at least three hours of therapy every day. The goal of this type of therapy is to return the patient safely to their environment. The average stay of inpatient rehab is 15 days. Other patients need less time and others may need to stay longer. Stroke survivors are discharged home after leaving inpatient rehab.
When a patient gets home, however, he/she may need ongoing therapy. At this point, the stroke survivor may be transitioned to outpatient stroke rehabilitation.
What can a physical therapist do for a stroke survivor?
A physical therapist can help stroke survivors regain strength and range of motion in the patient’s arms and legs. He/she is responsible for designing stroke rehabilitation programs that will help patients to regain basic physical skills such as walking and moving around the home.
A physical therapist can also provide stroke rehabilitation guidelines to home health aides and relatives working with stroke survivors at home to help patients regain lost functions.
Is physical therapy effective for stroke recovery?
Studies conducted in 2014 have proven that physical therapy, “using a mix of components from different approaches, is effective for the recovery of function and mobility after stroke.” Researchers also found that 30 to 60-minute sessions, five to seven days a week “may provide a significant beneficial effect.”
The primary goals of outpatient therapy are to help stroke survivors become as independent as possible and to help survivors achieve the best possible quality of life.
Vigor Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation provides a superior and patient-centered outpatient stroke rehabilitation program with a hands-on approach that gives emphasis to ample treatment time and a strong relationship with a dedicated therapist.
Dr. Voloshin, DPT, will personally create a customized stroke rehabilitation physical therapy program for you.
Call us today for a free consultation.