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Stroke Recovery: What Happens After a Stroke?

June 13, 2017 | By Nicole Simmons
Published in: Stroke

Couple sitting on a bench beside a river

When people experience a stroke, symptoms can vary depending on which parts of the brain are affected. Some people have weakness on one side of the body. Others have trouble thinking, talking, or moving. A stroke can be frightening to both the patient and the family. It helps to remember that stroke survivors often have a successful recovery when medical intervention happens as quickly as possible.

Factors That Affect Your Ability to Recover

Abstract model of a brainThe disabilities a stroke survivor experiences and the prognosis for recovery depend on the following:

  • General Health
  • How Much the Brain Was Damaged
  • Which Parts of the Brain Were Damaged
  • Which Side of the Brain Was Affected

Post-Stroke Impairments

After a stroke, there may be problems with movements and muscles. All of this is normal and there are things that can be done to assist in addressing these challenges.

Weakness on One Side of the Body

Stroke sufferers may have trouble grasping objects, walking, or performing other tasks. The side of the body affected by the stroke is the opposite side of the brain that is damaged by the stroke.

Joint Pain and Rigidity

Weakness in an arm can lead to joint pain because of a tight or "locked-up" joint. When this occurs, it's necessary to exercise the joint to prevent the joint from becoming permanently immobile.

Muscle Stiffness or Spasms

Those experiencing spasticity may need certain medications or injections to help block nerve reactions.

Difficulties with Sense of Touch

Individuals who have experienced a stroke may have issues judging the position of parts of their bodies. They may also have difficulty regulating their temperature, and their sense of touch may be affected.

Numbness, Pain, or Tingling

Limbs may hurt, be numb, or have an intermittent “pins and needles” feeling.

Difficulty Swallowing and Eating

In many cases, stroke victims may need help eating or need soft foods because of an increased risk of choking. Drinks may need to be thickened to prevent aspiration of liquids.

Trouble Coordinating Body Movements

It may be difficult for some people who have had strokes to start a movement or coordinate activities like walking or getting out of bed.

Bowel and Bladder Issues

It may be difficult holding urine or controlling bowel movements. Constipation may also be an issue. Although this can be embarrassing, there are ways to better manage these issues after a stroke.

Difficulty managing emotions or processing information

  • Speech and Language Difficulties
  • Memory and Cognitive Decline
  • Problems with Perception
  • Visual Problems
  • Emotional Difficulties

Post-Stroke Recovery

Physical therapy equipment that helps in recoveryThe brain is a remarkable organ that possesses the ability to rewire and reroute signals to a degree. Areas damaged by a stroke may recover. Undamaged parts of the brain may be able to take over for areas affected by the stroke. Much of the improvement in functioning comes from physical therapy and rehabilitation that happens in the early phases of stroke recovery. Starting rehabilitation as soon as possible is vital to successful recovery. In fact, the first stage of rehab generally begins about 24 to 48 hours after a stroke.Intense therapy may happen at a rehab facility or at home depending on the level of injury. People who are motivated to recover usually improve the most. A helpful support network of friends and family is also helpful for the recovery process.

Recovering from a stroke can be extremely frustrating. Setbacks may occur and it's quite common for stroke sufferers to battle depression, especially in the beginning. Overcoming issues with language and speech may seem especially slow. Grief from the loss of an active lifestyle is also normal. The stroke rehab team is there to help address these issues with families and patients. Discussing frustrations with the team and other supports is integral to stroke recovery.

Being there while a loved one is experiencing a stroke can be a terrifying experience, but you can get through it. The most important thing to remember is to get help quickly. Immediate medical care provides the best opportunity for a full recovery.

The Augusta Health Stroke Center is dedicated to providing the specialized care that stroke patients need. Visit their page to learn more about risk factors and rehabilitation options.