Learning how to retrain the brain after stroke isn’t as complicated as you’d think. It just requires diligence and the application of the following 3 key concepts.
But first off, you’re awesome. Why do we say that?
Because you stumbled upon this article, which means that you already know more than the average person about stroke recovery. How do we know that?
Well, a common misconception of regaining movement after stroke is that the problem lies within your muscles. While your muscles indeed need attention – it’s actually your brain that needs to be retrained.
That’s where the phrase “rehab starts in the brain, not the body” comes from. (But, you already knew that.)
For those who need a small refresher, here’s why your brain needs to be retrained after stroke.
After stroke, your brain has difficulty communicating with some of your muscles because it can’t properly access the motor functions stored in damaged parts of the brain.
The good news is that it’s possible to rewire those motor functions over to new, healthy parts of the brain where your brain can access them like normal again.
This phenomenon is known as neuroplasticity – and it’s the single most important concept behind retraining the brain after stroke.
What does it take to make neuroplasticity possible? Let’s dig into the 3 keys.
The first key for retraining the brain after stroke is to get your affected muscles moving through rehab exercises. This will start the rewiring process.
When starting out, rehab exercises can be difficult and frustrating because your brain will have a hard time accessing that information. But it will get easier with time, as long as you utilize the next two keys.
The second key for retraining the brain is repetition, repetition, repetition. During neuroplasticity, your brain is busy moving motor functions from damaged parts of your brain over to new, healthy parts of your brain. While your brain is busy moving things around, it can be hard to remember where it put the new information.
We can hardly blame this incredible organ, though. It’s been doing the same thing for years on end – so it’s become quite a strong, habit. And if you’ve ever tried to develop a new habit, you know that it takes lots of practice before it becomes routine.
So when you’re doing your rehab exercises, be sure to utilize a high number of repetitions. The more you repeat the exercise, the stronger those new connections in your mind become.
And lastly, the third key for retraining the brain after stroke is NEVER GIVING UP! We mean it. No matter how long you’ve been at it, there’s still progress that can be made.
The plateau isn’t real. Whether it’s been 1 month or 20 years since your stroke, your brain is still capable of change. You just have to believe that it’s possible, start doing rehab exercises, and consistently repeat them over and over (with proper rest in between, of course).
It’s a recipe for success!
And like we said at the beginning of this post: You’re awesome! And with these 3 keys to retraining the brain after stroke under your belt, you’ll be on your way to a successful recovery in no time.