Almost 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year. It is the No. 4 cause of death in the United States. For those who survive, rehabilitation helps overcome disabilities caused by the stroke and can lead to greater independence. Some research has shown that the brain has the ability to compensate for function lost due to stroke. In some cases, one part of the brain steps in to do things a damaged part no longer can.
If you are recovering from a stroke, your doctor will likely refer you to rehab services when you are well enough. You may get the services in a hospital or rehabilitation center, a long-term care facility, an outpatient clinic or your own home, with in-home providers. The location depends on how serious the effects of your stroke are.
How can rehab help me?
Recovering from a stroke is hard work. You may need rehabilitation for weeks, months or even years. But there are many professionals who can help you get back to a more normal life.
Depending on your needs, health care workers will focus on these areas:
Language, speech and memory. Some people have difficulty talking after a stroke. You may be unable to find the right words or put together complete sentences. Others may have trouble understanding your meaning. It may also be hard for you to think clearly and remember things. Speech and language therapists can help with these challenges.
Muscle and nerve problems. A stroke may affect only one side, or part of one side, of the body. You may be paralyzed or very weak on the affected side. That can lead to dangerous falls. Physical and occupational therapists specialize in helping you relearn how to dress, walk, eat and bathe. They will work with you to stretch and strengthen your muscles.
Bladder and bowel problems. Some people lose control of their bowel and bladder functions after a stroke because of damage to certain muscles and nerves. You may also feel like you have to urinate when your bladder isn't full. Bladder or bowel specialists can address these issues. There are also medicines that can help.
Swallowing and eating problems. It is not unusual to have trouble swallowing after a stroke. People with this problem may choke or cough up food while eating. A speech therapist can work with you on this.
Emotional issues. Recovering from a stroke can be frustrating and slow. Your mood may change rapidly, and your behavior and judgment may not be what they were before the stroke. It is natural to feel anxious, scared and depressed. Talk to your health care team. You may find that it helps to meet with a professional therapist. Joining a support group with other stroke victims may also be beneficial.
Can rehabilitation prevent a second stroke?
Part of rehabilitation will be helping you learn what your risk factors are for another stroke. Some, like what you inherited from your family, can't be changed. But many can. You can cut your risk by doing the following:
- Quit smoking if you smoke.
- Avoid secondhand smoke.
- Eat a healthy diet. Ask your doctor about what type of diet is right for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Your doctor can help you determine what a healthy weight is for you.
- Be physically active. Work with your doctor to determine a safe level of physical activity for you.
- Your doctor can also help you control any medical conditions that increase your risk including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, peripheral or carotid artery disease, and heart disease.
Created on 05/06/2003
Updated on 02/21/2013
- American Stroke Association. Post-stroke rehabilitation.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is a stroke?
- National Stroke Association. Rehabilitation therapy after stroke.