Learning how to recover from stroke can be overwhelming sometimes, but you came to the right place.
We’re going to cover the best practices when it comes to recovering from stroke; starting with these 15 common mistakes and the best ways to fix them.
1. Forget What They Said – A Full Recovery IS Possible
The biggest mistake: Not believing in yourself
A full recovery is something that we believe in – and it’s something that you need to believe in too. We’ve written about it extensively, but the crux of what you need to know is that compensation techniques can become an option. While they might be necessary in the beginning stages – it’s possible to reach a point where you can push past them.
And if that made absolutely no sense, refer to our other article on how to fully recover from stroke.
2. Crush Self-Doubt Once and For All
The biggest mistake: Slipping to the negative self-talk
Are you sick and tired of it yet? Of your therapists, friends, and family members telling you about the limitation of your recovery?
Please know this: You can achieve whatever you put your mind to. We know, we know, it sounds so cliche. But what we want you to understand is that hearing these negative beliefs about your recovery has a psychological effect on you. The more you hear the negative talk, the more you believe it – and then you start talking negatively to yourself.
So it’s time to say, NO. No thank you. I will not settle for a limited recovery and I am going to see this thing through until I get to where I want to be.
3. Make Repetition Your New Best Friend
The biggest mistake: Giving up on rehab exercises after a short period of no improvement
If you’re practicing your rehab exercises sporadically, you’re not going to see results. Your brain needs a high number of repetitions in order to successfully rewire itself and heal. This rewiring process is known as neuroplasticity, and it’s imperative for a successful rehabilitation. Without a high number of repetitions and a consistent rehab routine, your brain won’t have what it needs to recover lost movement. So don’t exercise in vain – make sure that you’re utilizing a high number of repetitions so that your efforts produce results.
4. More Is Better… Except When It’s Not
The biggest mistake: Exercising too much
While repetition is important, too much exercise can start to hinder your progress. You need a good amount of rest and sleep in order to successfully recover. During sleep, your brain stores information related to motor tasks that you performed that day. Think of it as your brain’s opportunity to file important documents about motor recovery that it can access later. You don’t want to skip out on that! So be sure to take breaks during your rehab exercises and get lots of sleep.
5. Blindly Moving Forward Will Make You Go Backwards
The biggest mistake: Approaching your rehab exercises indifferently
You need a vision, otherwise it’ll be too easy to give up. When you have something that you’re working towards, you’re more likely to actively take steps to get there. When you don’t have a goal, you’re taking steps toward an unknown outcome, and there’s no motivation in that. So set some realistic goals and keep your eye on the prize!
6. Admit It: You’ll Never Feel Like It
The biggest mistake: Exercising when you “feel like it”
Stroke recovery can be tiring and exhausting. So if your ‘plan’ is to do your rehab exercises when you “feel like it” – it’ll probably never happen. You need something to hold you accountable to your goals, and creating a rehab schedule can help you get there.
7. You Need to Communicate with Your Brain
The biggest mistake: Doing rehab exercises without clear success or failure cues
Your brain needs to know if you’ve done something right or wrong. So when performing your rehab exercises, there’s a big difference between an exercise that gives you direct feedback and one that doesn’t. For example, if you’re working on hand mobility and you sit down and wiggle your hand back and forth, it’s not going to do much for you. Your brain needs clear and concrete signs that you’ve done something right or wrong in order to accelerate recovery. So when choosing rehab exercises, make sure that there’s clear feedback for you (and your brain) to work with.
8. Become a Witness of Your Own Improvement
The biggest mistake: Giving up
When we give up on something, it’s usually because we’re frustrated that we’re not getting to where we want to be. The best way to avoid giving up is to remain aware of the progress you’ve made. So after every exercise session, write down what you did and how you feel in a journal or exercise log. Then, you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come! And it’s hard to give up when you know you’re making strides.
9. Plateaus Do Not Mean What You Think They Mean
The biggest mistake: Giving in to the plateau
The plateau is real — but it doesn’t mean what you might think it means. While it’s true that recovery typically slows down after about 3-6 months after stroke, it does not mean that progress will stop. Recovery will only stop when YOU stop. If you experience a plateau, it’s a sign to double up on your efforts, not back down.
10. Variety and Challenge Are the Spice of Rehabilitation
The biggest mistake: Keeping your regimen the same
One reason a plateau occurs is because your brain gets used to the stimulation you’re giving it. A great way to bust through a plateau are to switch up your regimen so that your brain has a new kind of stimulation. You can also reverse a plateau by increasing the challenge of your regimen. Challenge is an important ingredient in stroke recovery, and you need to have the perfect amount (not too much, not too little). It’s likely that a plateau can happen from too little challenge. By increasing the challenge in your regimen, you can bounce back from a plateau.
111. Find Friends to Lean On
The biggest mistake: Going it alone
As you progress through your stroke recovery, you’re likely to have a team of therapists and doctors supporting you. Once you’re on your own, though, it’s important not to stay alone! Make time in your schedule to socialize and relax with friends and family. Having others around can help ease any depression and anxiety that might creep up on you during your recovery.
Our stroke support group on Facebook is a great place to find support from other stroke survivors.
12. Understand All the Possible Stroke Side Effects
The biggest mistake: Staying in the dark about possible side effects
There are many stroke side effects that don’t develop until later on in recovery, like emotional lability. By staying on top of the potential side effects that you may experience, you can avoid the freak out when something goes wrong. We have written about stroke side effects in depth on the blog, and the stroke support group is also an excellent place to ask other survivors if they’ve experienced the same side effects that you are.
And always, always, always call 9-1-1 if you ever feel pain in your head, intense dizziness, or any other symptoms that are seriously worrisome.
13. Understand the Natural Ebb and Flow of Recovery
The biggest mistake: Freaking out when your results start to backslide
When your progress starts to backslide after stroke, it could be a sign of regression. Regression, however, is very rare. Most often, backsliding during stroke recovery is simply party of the process. Stroke recovery goes up and down. It’s very normal to take two steps forward and one step back – or even five steps back. While it can be frustrating, trust that when you zoom out and look at the big picture, there’s always an upward pattern of growth.
14. Keep Your Stroke Prevention Game Strong
The biggest mistake: Neglecting stroke prevention
Stroke prevention is absolutely essential for stroke survivors since one stroke increases your risk of a second. To manage your risk of recurrent stroke, a good place to start is our stroke prevention guidelines where we lay the groundwork for how to prevent a stroke.
15. Endlessly Experiment with Therapy Until You Find the ONE
The biggest mistake: Settling for a mediocre rehabilitation regimen
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that rehab exercises should take center stage during your stroke recovery. Some of our favorite physical therapies are Mirror Therapy and Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy and our very own FitMi full-body therapy. These are powerful programs that are designed to help you activate neuroplasticity and see the results you desire. No matter what you choose, keep searching and trying different rehabilitation options until you find the one that provides the most benefit to you.
Follow all 15 of these steps, and you will have a great foundation to build an amazing recovery upon.