Last week’s article was about Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy training principles in stroke rehabilitation. We discussed the intense nature of the therapy and how this presented practical problems for most people. Researchers have experimented with a modified version of the program with good results. Some programs have found that even working with the patient for half an hour three times a week and having the patient wear a mitt for only 5 hours a day on the good limb, has resulted in marked improvements in function.
This training works best if the skill being practiced has direct usefulness in everyday life, such as lifting a spoon to the mouth. The training should be done in increments, gradually building on the degree of difficulty. The work should be concentrated into a short time, a technique that Taub calls “massed practice” - this has been found to be a lot more effective that doing less frequent training over a longer period.
The Stroke Recovery Association of BC has an excellent website with many helpful and informative videos. The Association suggests a few steps to improve recovery after a stroke. The first step emphasizes the role of exercise in improving mobility. Walking daily, riding a bike and even doing household chores such as dusting or vacuuming are all useful activities.
With regard to improving communication and language skills, suggestions such as writing down key words, drawing pictures and using tone of voice and expressions are made. It is important to be patient and not to try to speak too quickly. Many stroke victims have problems with comprehension as well as formulating words and sentences.
Social interaction is a key part of stroke recovery. Feeling isolated after a stroke only worsens any anxiety and decreases the amount of effort a person may make with their everyday activities. It is so important to stay connected with family and friends. Most loved ones will be accepting of the need to do things somewhat differently or slower in order to help the affected person stay involved.
Support groups are another key factor in helping people recover after stroke. It is reassuring to hear how other people have managed to resume activities after their strokes and learn useful tips for getting back ones independence. Mood changes and anxiety are common after stroke, and talking to others who have been through the process is always helpful. Support groups are also a great resource for caregivers.
Many people make excellent recovery after their strokes. Adopting healthy habits makes this more likely, and minimizes the chance of a repeat stroke. You should work with your doctors to get your blood pressure to the optimal level and reduce your cholesterol and your weight. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, and your doctor is a great resource to help you with this too. Minimising alcohol and increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables are other things people can do to help themselves. There is evidence that adopting a whole food plant based diet has many protective benefits for the cardiovascular system.