A stroke results when the supply of blood to your brain is cut off due to damaged blood vessels or blood clots. It can lead to significant impairment of cognition, language, sensory and motor skills. Due to this, stroke is considered a leading cause of severe disability in the long-term. You may take years recovering from stroke and it requires hard work, patience and commitment. Recovery starts after condition becomes stable. Starting the process of recovery as soon as possible increases the chances of regaining the affected functions of body and brain.
Initial time required for recovery: The first stage of recovery starts around 24-48 hours post stroke, when you are still hospitalized. Since, majority of the strokes damage an individual’s ability for independent movement, your physician will encourage you to change positions, do complete ROM (range-of-motion) exercises, and depending on your stroke’s severity, stand or walk around the room of the hospital. Some patients suffering from stroke become significantly mobile in the initial few days post stroke.
Time required for Intensive Rehabilitation: The initial stage of rehabilitation from stroke are intensive and may last for around 5-6 weeks. During this period, you will undergo outpatient or inpatient therapy, depending on your physical condition and how close you live to a rehabilitation center. You will have physical therapy, sessions with physicians and tests for 5-6 days every week. You may also opt for in-home physical therapy sessions, which are expensive and more suitable for elderly patients who live far away from the rehab center.
Time required for long-term recovery: Although to predict how much time you may take in the long-term stroke recovery process is difficult, majority of the improvement will occur in the initial 6 months. You may continue to show improvement even after six months if you have great support from your family, friends and physicians.
Recovery from stroke requires commitment and patience. Scientists don’t exactly know how brain recovers after stroke; however, they have certain possible explanations of how rehabilitation of brain occurs.
It is suggested by both anecdotal evidence and research that brain functions post stroke by producing a change in the way different tasks are done. If the flow of blood to the area affected in the brain during stroke is restored, some damaged brain cells may resume functioning. Moreover, another area of brain may start performing functions that were performed by the damaged area.
No set timeline exists for stroke recovery process. Some individuals go through rehabilitation and resume usual activities in few months, whereas others may require one year or more and regain only partial functioning. Here are certain ways to speed up the process of recovery:
Various compensation techniques also exist that may be helpful. These are techniques that help a patient with stroke adapt to deficits they may have. For instance, a cane can compensate for balance impairment or a Kindle can compensate for reading and holding a book.
Falls are very common post stroke; hence don’t ignore them. If a fall results in bruising, bleeding or severe pain visit an emergency room for treatment. If you experience minor falls without any injury greater than 2 times within a time span of 6 months, visit your doctor or physical therapist.
Make Adjustments to Your Plan of Treatment Periodically
Stroke recovery produces major gains in the initial 3-4 months post stroke. But many individuals continue to show improvement months later. Keep a check of your progress and adjust your recovery plan if required. You may get benefit from different types of therapies as your condition gets better.
Discuss with your physician about the situations or symptoms that require a visit to them. However, if you see any of the below mentioned signs or symptoms of stroke, immediately call 911. Every single minute counts; hence, never delay to prevent damage due to stroke.
Am I at Risk of Getting a Second Stroke?
The risk of getting a second stroke is greatest immediately post a stroke. 3% of survivors get a second one in the initial 30 days and 1/3rd has another one within 2 years.
However, risk factors are highly variable in different individuals. Therefore, it is important to discuss with your physician about the risk factors specific to you and form a plan to counter them.
Hypertension is the greatest risk factor of stroke and most important cause of it. Suffering from high levels of blood cholesterol, heart disease or diabetes also increases your risk. Various lifestyle factors which increase your risks, are obesity, smoking cigarettes, excessive consumption of alcohol, sedentary life, and using illicit drug.