CVA / Stroke

CVA / Stroke

A stroke occurs if an area of brain tissue is deprived of its blood supply causing brain cells to lose their supply of oxygen. This is usually caused by a blockage or burst blood vessel. Without oxygen, brain cells can become irreversibly damaged within minutes.

Unlike other cells in the body, if brain cells are irreversibly damaged then they are unable to heal themselves. The brain, however, is very adaptable and areas of the brain are capable of learning new tasks to compensate for the areas that have been damaged. Physiotherapy encourages this learning and to help the body re-learn normal movement patterns.

There are two types of stroke:

Ischaemic (90%) (blockage within an artery)
Haemorrhagic (10%) (ruptured blood vessel causing bleeding into the brain)

Effects of a Stroke

Common physical effects:

  • Reduced mobility
  • Weakness or paralysis (usually on one side of the body)
  • Reduced sensation
  • Neglect to one side of the body
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Speech and/or language difficulties
  • Incontinence
  • Fatigue
  • Post stroke pain
  • Foot drop

Common non-physical effects:

  • Mood changes
  • Perceptual problems
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Behavioural changes

Stroke Physiotherapy Treatment

Around half of stroke survivors are left with significant disability. The brain is, however, very adaptable and, with physiotherapy, recovery can take place over a period of years. Patients often have a rapid period of recovery in the first few months after a stroke followed by a slower recovery over the following years. To gain the maximum recovery, physiotherapy treatment should be continued once you leave hospital.

Neurological stroke physiotherapy can help:

  • improve balance and walking
  • increase ability to roll / move in bed / sit / stand
  • reduce muscle spasms, pain and stiffness
  • increase strength
  • retrain normal patterns of movement
  • increase affected arm and leg function
  • increase energy levels
  • increase independence and quality of life
  • reduce the risk of falls
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