Have you ever thought something along these lines:
“I have no movement in my hand so there’s no hope of using it ever again.”
“I don’t have any movement in my left half so I will be in a wheelchair for my entire life.”
“It’s been 15 years since my stroke, so this is as good as it’s going to get.”
Limiting beliefs like these can really discourage you from pursuing a higher recovery – which sucks because beliefs like this aren’t even true.
The truth is that EVERYONE can recover at ANY stage of recovery.
Today we’d like to elaborate on this truth by introducing 5 steps that can help introduce movement into paralyzed muscles after stroke.
Step 1: Identify Limiting Beliefs and Release Them
First of all, there’s no such thing as an “impossible recovery.”
If anyone ever used the word “impossible” and “you” in the same sentence, then kindly disregard that person’s beliefs. For example, if someone said “I’m sorry, but it’s impossible for you to regain movement in your leg,” then ignore them.
Because limiting beliefs like that are simply a reflection of THEIR limiting beliefs.
Whether it’s something they were taught in school or a bad attempt at making you feel better, limiting beliefs have no place in your recovery.
If you were told that you can’t regain movement after your stroke, then hear this instead.
Because you CAN regain movement in your body at ANY stage of stroke recovery – even when some of your muscles are paralyzed.
Neuroplasticity Is Your Golden Ticket
Before we dig into step 2, we’d like to briefly explain the science behind our bold statement, which is neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the mechanism that your brain uses to rewire and heal itself. And it’s important to note that neuroplasticity can be activated at any age and any stage.
Whether you’re young or old, paralyzed or mobilized, you have the power to retrain your brain and improve movement in your body.
And the best way to engage neuroplasticity is through repetitive practice, which we will discuss a later in step 3.
Step 2: Start Practicing Passive Exercises
Although you may not have movement in your affected muscles, you can still exercise passively.
Passive exercises involve using your ‘good’ side to assist your affected muscles. For example, while doing hand exercises, you can use your ‘good’ hand to help your paralyzed hand move. Or you can use your ‘good’ leg to help your affected leg move.
Although you aren’t making the movements on your own, you’re still stimulating your brain; and that’s enough to start sparking neuroplasticity!
Step 3: Aim for High Reps
The more you engage neuroplasticity, the more potential you have to regain movement in your paralyzed muscles.
And the best way to engage neuroplasticity is through repetitive practice. In this case, that involves practicing your passive exercises over and over and over.
Each time you practice a movement, you strengthen the connections in your brain responsible for that movement. The more you practice, the better you will get because the connections in your brain continue to get stronger and stronger.
Another important ingredient for neuroplasticity is consistency. For some patients this may look like daily exercise. For other patients, this may look like exercise every other day or twice a week.
No matter how much you choose to exercise, be sure to make it consistent. Consistency helps your improvement stick. Without consistency, you won’t see good results.
Step 4: Understand that There Will Be Bad Days and Keep Moving Forward
Your progress will not be linear. Rather, it will involve lots of ups and downs – but the overall direction should be upward.
For example, let’s say that you know a woman with no hand movement after her stroke.
At first, she will have no movement in her hand. But if she starts to practice passive hand exercises regularly and consistently, then maybe in a month she can start to see twitches in her hand.
And now that she’s starting to see progress, she keeps up with the exercises and now she can move her thumb a little. Suddenly, she has movement in her hand!
This example illustrates that the more you practice, the more movement you will slowly start to gain.
Step 5: Move onto Active Exercise
As movement slowly starts to creep into your affected muscles, you can start to regain more and more control over your movement.
Once you feel like you have enough movement to practice your rehab exercises without the help of your ‘good’ side, you can start to practice active exercises. Active exercise simply means that you perform the movement 100% on your own, without the help of your unaffected side.
Don’t aim for perfection with this stage.
You do not need the ability to practice a movement perfectly before you start active exercise. Even just the tiniest ability to practice a movement on your own is a sign that you should try!
This is how one of our patients regained movement in his paralyzed hand with MusicGlove. He used the device to perform his hand therapy passively until he regained twitches in his hand. Then he continued to use the device passively until he regained more and more movement in his hand.
He worked hard to regain movement in his paralyzed hand even when doctors said it was impossible.
His story proves that recovery is possible at ANY stage – no matter what others have said.
Overall, there are 5 important steps for regaining movement after stroke paralysis:
- Identify any limiting beliefs you have about your recovery and toss them out the window
- Start practicing passive rehab exercises
- Make sure you emphasize lots of repetition and consistency with your regimen
- Be patient as your progress fluctuates up and down
- Move onto active exercise when you’re ready
There’s also a sixth step: Never give up hope!
There are many stories of survivors who defied the odds and regained more movement than anyone thought possible.
You can be one of those stories!