Choosing which stroke exercises to include in your stroke rehabilitation program depends on what symptoms you are experiencing and what area of the brain was damaged by your stroke. When an area of the brain suffers oxygen deprivation for an extended period that is called a cerebrovascular accident, CVA or commonly called a stroke. After a stroke the issues that may be experienced by the survivor are related to how much of the brain was damaged and what area of the brain was affected.
Stroke exercises form an integral part of the recovery and rehabilitation process. The latest scientific research about the brain and recovery demonstrate a remarkable finding called ‘neuroplasticity’ with regards to the brain and the nervous system. Neuroplasticity is a combination of the words neurology which can refer to the brain and nervous system and the word plastic which refers to something soft and pliable. Basically science has found that the brain is a ‘plastic’ organ, which means it is not fixed or rigid but it is highly adaptable and able to change or mold. This concept is the process behind stroke recovery and people abilities to regain functions after a stroke. With regards to stroke exercises in very broad categories we can look at three main areas which are cognitive exercises, motor exercises and sensory exercises.
Exercises that focus on cognition can be anything to do with processing thought. Any function that occurs in your brain, like adding up a mathematics equation. Classically for people who have suffered a stroke on the left side of their brain they may experience problems with language called aphasia. This can be problems with understanding speech or expressing speech. These issues occur despite normal hearing and normal movement of speech producing parts of the face. Cognition exercises would focus on the thinking aspects of recovery and work on helping problems like the language related aphasia.
Probably one of the most common parts of rehabilitation for stroke involves motor rehabilitation. Motor is this regards refers to the movement of the body. Stroke survivors who have issues with movement might have a flaccid or limp limb that has little muscle tone or they may have spasticity in the limb which makes it rigid. Either way there can be difficulty with the movement of this limb and working on improving movement and coordination of any affected limbs is very important. Goals of regaining some independence such as walking, getting dressed, feeding oneself or getting out of bed are vitally important to help improve the quality of life for a stroke survivor.
Problems with the sensory system results in areas of the skin or body that feel numb or have altered sensation. This can result in an area not being able to tell if an object is dull or sharp or differentiate the temperature of hot and cold. There may be some feeling in the area but it may not have the sensitivity that it is suppose to. Sensory problems can in turn affect movement because the control over a limb you can not feel becomes very difficult.
The need for specific stroke exercises to help a patient with their recovery and rehabilitation is very important. These exercises should target the symptoms that the stroke survivor is having and address the areas of the brain affected. A more tailored approach can help ensure the most recovery and speed up the process.