Early muscle activation during the early stages of stroke rehab is critical for maximizing movement recovery. In this article you’ll learn what muscle activation is, why it’s so important for stroke recovery, and how to incorporate it into your rehabilitation regimen. Let’s get started.
Muscle Activation Exercises and Your Brain
Muscle activation, or neuromuscular activation, involves using (or ‘activating’) your weak or injured muscles during exercise. The goal is to get these muscles moving so that you can strengthen them and also prevent learned-nonuse, where your brain completely forgets how to use the neglected muscles. Muscle activation helps improve your overall mobility and reduce your risk of injury by strengthening the affected muscles and reducing your need for compensation – which we’ll get to in a second.
Muscle Activation for Stroke Recovery
After a stroke, your brain has difficulty communicating with some of your muscles (depending on the location and size of your stroke). To repair this communication, you need to activate the impaired muscles in order to retain your brain how to use them. Muscle activation exercises are designed to enhance the communication between your brain and your muscles, and since stroke recovery is all about retraining the brain, you can see why it’s so important for a good recovery.
Muscle Activation and Compensation
Compensation techniques occur when we don’t use the proper muscles to perform activities. For example, if your right leg is weakened after stroke, you’ll be inclined to use your left leg more than your right leg (which is absolutely understandable). But the extra effort exerted on your left leg also affects other areas of your body, like your hips and lower back, so getting your right leg functioning properly again is beneficial.
Muscle activation helps us retrain the proper muscles to perform activities like normal so that we can avoid or reduce the need for compensation techniques. In some cases, avoiding compensation techniques could be the key to a full recovery. So it’s extremely important to get neglected muscles moving so that your brain has the best chance of relearning how to use them.
How to Incorporate Muscle Activation into Your Rehab Regimen
There are many studies suggesting that early muscle activation is critical for a good stroke recovery. This means that you’ll need to get your affected muscles moving within the first few months after stroke to really see good motor improvement.
Talk with your therapist about early muscle activation – they’ll probably be impressed that you know about it. Then they can start to help you to get your affected muscles moving so that you can achieve maximum recovery.