Stroke Recovery: What role does Physiotherapy play and how can Summit help?

The time following a stroke can be stressful and overwhelming for a person suffering from a stroke and for their family. Patients are already adjusting to huge changes in their body. They require clear direction and care from a cohesive medical team to maximize their chances of a full recovery. The variety of treatments and comprehensiveness of care can be immense. We have put together this month’s article to give patients and their loved ones an idea of the road to recovery; and where Summit fits in to this long-term process.

So what exactly do physiotherapists do to help stroke patients along?

Physiotherapists play an integral role in setting up a reasonable timeline for goals and recovery with the patient and their caregivers. In the therapy process, it is important to set clear and tangible goals early on. A physiotherapist is someone who will hold the patient accountable to these objectives. This helps to set clear expectations for both the patient and the caregivers for the pace of recovery and what can speed up the process. Therapists also provide ongoing support, education and advice as the body moves through different stages of recovery, and re-learning the activities of daily living.

Although Summit only works with patients after their return home, a specialized stroke physiotherapist will assess the patient immediately following the stroke while in the hospital. These specialized physiotherapists take note of previous health problems and bring to light movement issues from the start. They advise nurses on how each individual patient should be positioned to minimize the chance of further injury. As well, they determine how long patients should spend each day sitting, standing and laying. During this process, physiotherapists will explain how to improve posture and balance. Even while still in bed, they can prescribe strengthening exercises and stretches to prevent joint stiffness and muscle tightness. These are common side effects during the first three months after a stroke.

After a patient’s health stabilizes, usually following their release from the hospital, active therapy can begin. At this point, Summit can work with patients to develop a home program that involves range of motion, stretching, strengthening and balance exercises. This allows patients to become participatory in the healing process. It is crucial to be as active as possible as soon as possible without over-exertion. Physiotherapists prescribe special exercises that can be taught at the clinic, and practiced at home, aimed at regaining strength and movement. Most of these exercises will focus on learning how to use both sides of the body again, improve balance, stretch tight muscles and strengthen muscles weakened by the stroke. Physiotherapists may also recommend new ways of doing things that are better suited to the body post-injury. They can determine when a patient can get back to doing the sports and activities they love. Or, suggest new ones that might be more appropriate for changes that have taken place in the body because of the stroke.

In the months following a stroke, many patients experience spasticity, which is tight muscles that can make movement of the limbs, particularly arms and legs, difficult. During the stroke, the parts of the brain responsible for telling muscles to tighten or relax may have been damaged, inhibiting communication between these two parts. Physiotherapists at Summit can also offer the following to help ease pain:

Massage Therapy: Skilled massage therapists can help relax tight muscles and reduce spasms. In addition to exercise, integrating regular massage therapy sessions into a treatment plan will aid in minimizing the pain caused by spasticity. Sessions help to reduce muscle tension, improve mobility, as well as combat possible emotional side effects like depression and anxiety.

Myofascial Release Therapy: Fascia is the connective tissue that everything in your body runs off of. When treating adhered Fascia tissue using myofascial release, therapists target tense areas with a gentle constant force by using their hands or other tools. They work to apply pressure to the area in order to stretch or rework the tissue.

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Throughout the healing process, physiotherapists are there to ensure patients are progressing well. As patients begin to regain strength, range of motion and balance, a physiotherapist at Summit can recommend more challenging daily exercises that will further help their mobility and improve their ability to perform day to day activities. When comfortable, they can also work with patients to re-learn basic tasks, like how to walk up stairs, balance while walking short distances, and move from one position to another in a safe and controlled environment.

At Summit, we want to help all our patients move through the latter phases of recovery at a safe and comfortable pace. We want patients to resume a fulfilling and independent life as soon as possible. If you, or someone you know, wants to talk to one of our physiotherapists further about the services we provide for people who have suffered from a stroke, please contact us.