There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ stroke recovery regimen because every stroke is different.
However, there are certain elements that every stroke recovery regimen can benefit from, no matter what stage of recovery you’re in.
Here are 7 great places to start.
1. Repetition to Heal the Brain
Repetition is the king of recovery.
We are what we repeatedly focus on, and you get better at what you repeatedly do. Why? Because repetition triggers neuroplasticity, which is the mechanism that your brain uses to heal itself after stroke.
Each time you repeat a rehab exercise, you trigger neuroplasticity and strengthen the neural connections in your brain responsible for that movement. With each repetition, the connections become stronger and stronger.
Sometimes you need to repeat a movement thousands of times in order to see big results, though, so stay with the process and repeat, repeat, repeat.
2. Consistency to Keep Your Gains
Once you have the repetition part down, you’re already well on your way. But you need to be consistent in order for the results to stick.
If you’re repetitive but only exercise once a week, then the connections in your brain will start to weaken in between each session.
In order to recover faster, we don’t want to allow those connections to weaken with an inconsistent routine.
So make a schedule and stick with it.
Be consistent with your rehab exercises so that your brain has everything it needs to heal and restore movement in your body.
3. Feedback to Reinforce Recovery
When you perform your rehab exercises, you need clear cues that tell your brain whether or not you’re performing correctly.
These cues offer essential feedback for the brain to relearn movement.
Just like flipping a light switch has a very obvious outcome (the light turns on or off), your rehab exercises need very obvious success/failure cues, too.
For example, our MusicGlove hand therapy device offers very specific feedback after each hand movement is performed.
Each time you perform incorrectly, the screen will tell you “miss.” This lets your brain know that the hand movement wasn’t accurate.
Each time you hit a note correctly, it will say “good” or “great!” This lets your brain know that you’re doing well and that you want to keep it up!
Feedback like this is essential for reinforcing motor gains during stroke rehab.
4. Rest to Boost Recovery
Most likely, you will feel the desire to sleep a lot after stroke. And when you tire easily after rehab exercises, it’s extremely important to listen to your body.
Your brain is healing itself, and that sucks up a lot of mental juice. So when you want to sleep, allow yourself to sleep!
Not only does this give you the energy to take on the rest of your day, but sleep also helps your brain absorb all the new information it learned from your rehab exercises.
So be sure to get lots of sleep for the sake of a better brain, better mood, and better recovery!
5. Goals to Inspire
One of our most popular posts is How Goal Setting Can Radically Boost Your Stroke Recovery – Don’t Underestimate It.
Simply put, you need to set goals that motivate you and clearly spell out exactly what you have to gain by achieving those goals and exactly what you have to lose by failing to take action.
The article explains how to set those highly motivating goals. It’s worth a read!
6. Variety to Bust through Plateaus
At this point, you’ve got repetition, consistency, and clear feedback. You also take lots of naps so that you’re well-rested and you look at your goals daily so that you’re motivated.
You’re headed fast down the road to recovery, but after a few months your progress starts to slow. You’ve hit a plateau, and you’re frustrated.
First, understand that plateaus are only a slowing – not a stopping. Recovery only stops when you stop.
Second, the best way to bust through a plateau is to add variety to your regimen. Your brain has become used to the current level of stimulation and you need to shake things up!
Do something different and it will give your brain what it needs to start improving again.
7. Fun to Make Your Motivation Last
Lastly, you need to incorporate some fun! Seriously.
Survivors who enjoy their rehab push themselves harder, feel more motivated, and experience better results. In other words, the more engaged you are with rehab, the better you will do!
If you’d like to find a creative way to add fun to your regimen, we recommend this article on fun activities for stroke patients.
Is your rehab regimen missing any of these steps?
What can you do today to start creating your best rehab regimen?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!