If your arm or leg has no movement after stroke, this article will show you how to regain mobility.
While some medical professionals might tell you that it’s impossible to regain movement in paralyzed limbs, there is always hope.
Don’t let anyone’s negative beliefs stop you from trying. Trust in yourself and your ability to achieve an amazing recovery.
Regaining Movement in a Paralyzed Arm or Leg After Stroke
There are 5 ways to start regaining movement in a paralyzed limb after stroke. Try working through them progressively.
Some stroke survivors will see results quickly. Some might even start to see twitches in their paralyzed limbs within a few months.
For other stroke survivors, results will come slowly.
Either way, trust that recovery can happen at any age and any stage of recovery – including post stroke paralysis.
Now, let’s move onto the 5 steps to regain movement in paralyzed limbs.
0. Begin Sensory Re-Education (If Necessary)
Often, when there is lack of movement in a limb, there is also lack of sensation. This can make it even more difficult to regain movement in your paralyzed limbs.
If you have difficulty feeling sensation in your affected limb, then you can retrain yourself to feel through sensory re-education exercises.
Your senses are often slow to regain, but it’s possible to get your feeling back through consistent practice of sensory re-education exercises.
1. Move Through Your Range of Motion
It’s important to move your paralyzed limbs through their range of motion.
This works best with the help of a caregiver who can move your arm and/or leg through their full range of motion.
This helps prevent contractures (stiffening of the affected muscles) and promotes flexibility.
Refer to this guide to range of motion exercises for some ideas of where to start.
2. Begin Passive Exercise to Rewire the Brain
In order to regain movement in your paralyzed limbs, you need to reconnect your mind to your muscles by activating neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the mechanism that rewires your brain around the damage caused by stroke, and you can activate this amazing mechanism through practice.
Whatever you repeatedly practice is what you get better at.
Therefore, the most important step towards regaining movement in your paralyzed limbs is to practice rehab exercises.
At first, you can start with passive exercises where you assist your limbs through each movement. This activates neuroplasticity and begins to reconnect your mind to your muscle.
As you continue to practice passive exercise, you might start to regain movement – at which point you can work towards active exercise where you perform each movement on your own.
3. Bring In the Electrical Stimulation
A great way to boost your gains from your exercise is to add some electrical stimulation (as long as your therapist says it’s ok!).
Electrical stimulation (also known as TENS therapy) causes your affected muscles to contract and sends extra sensory input to your brain.
This helps accelerate the process of reconnecting your mind to your muscles.
Studies have shown that electrical stimulation produces better results when used in combination with task-related training.
So if you decide to participate in TENS therapy, try to use it at the same time as your rehab exercises!
4. Visualize Your Paralyzed Limbs Moving
When you visualize your paralyzed limbs moving, you activate neuroplasticity the same way that physically moving your limbs does!
This means that you can work on reconnecting your mind to your muscles without even leaving your bed. (Sound too good to be true? Here’s the proof.)
And best of all, visualization works even better when you combine it with physical practice as well. So try to do both!
5. Try Mirror Therapy
Mirror therapy involves placing a mirror over your affected limb so that it reflects your unaffected limb while performing rehab exercises.
The mirror image ‘tricks’ your brain into thinking that you’re moving your affected arm or leg, which sparks neuroplasticity.
Mirror therapy is another great way to give your brain an extra ‘jumpstart’ and accelerate your healing.
6. Move onto Active Exercise
This is a bonus step because if you get here, you’ve come so far!
As you start to incorporate passive exercise, visualization, TENS therapy, and mirror therapy into your regimen, you might start to see results.
At first, it might just be twitches. But with enough time, practice, and hard work, you might be able to regain some real movement in your arm and/or leg.
This is when you double down and keep pushing. Once you regain some movement, it’s time to start practicing active exercises (where you perform the movement without the help of your unaffected side).
Your movements might be slow and wobbly at first, but it’s a beautiful thing! It means that you’re healing and progressing on the road to recovery.