Rehabilitation, physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy
can help improve the functions of the body after a stroke. Rehabilitation
can help retrain the brain to think, understand, speak, move and feel.
The first few days after a stroke are very critical. During this time,
the brain could swell and cause even more damage to the brain. About a
week after a stroke, the patient’s condition stops changing and
the deficits seen at first may start to improve on their own. Problems
that remain after deficits have improved, such as weakness and speech
problems can be greatly improved by rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation not only helps patients regain strength and abilities, it
also teaches patients how to manage their lives within the limits of their
deficits. It is started as soon as the patient is medically stable—usually
within a few days after a stroke.
Rehabilitation is a combination of three types of therapy:
- Physical therapy will strengthen muscles and improve walking skills. It
can also help loosen muscles and joints that may have become stiff in
the side of the body involved in the stroke.
- Speech therapy will help patients with speaking, understanding, reading,
writing, memory, problem solving and dealing with numbers. The speech
therapist will prescribe a number of exercises to help regain these abilities.
- Occupational therapy will help patients perform daily activities with the
help of “tricks” and specially-designed gadgets and devices.
Patients will learn how to do personal hygiene, dress themselves, cook
and other daily chores.
The success of stroke rehabilitation depends mostly on the patient and
his or her family. The family can help by encouraging the patient to do
the exercises the therapists recommend.
Exercises should continue even after initial deficits have improved. This
gives patients the best chance to get back to a normal life.