As a stroke survivor or caregiver, knowing the best stroke treatment options is essential.
It can help you streamline your recovery from stroke so that you can get back to normal life as quickly as possible.
So today we’re running down the best stroke treatment options available – and we’ll also share the worst one to avoid at the end.
We broke it up into 5 parts because there’s a lot of good information in here. Let’s get started.
Part 1: Best Stroke Treatment Options in the Hospital
Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the supply of blood to the brain is compromised by either a clogged or burst artery.
This causes brain damage and can sometimes lead to death. Therefore, stroke requires immediate medical attention.
The faster treatment is administered, the more brain they can save.
When it comes to stroke, time is brain!
1. Surgery (Hemicraniectomy) for Hemorrhagic Stroke
A hemorrhagic stroke is caused when an artery in the brain bursts, causing blood to leak into the area surrounding area the brain.
While non-surgical options for hemorrhagic stroke can be explored, surgery is often the best way to treat hemorrhagic stroke.
A common and risky type of surgery used to treat hemorrhagic stroke is called a hemicraniectomy, where part of the skull is removed to relieve pressure from swelling in the brain.
2. Clot-Busting Drugs for Ischemic Stroke
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot clogs an artery in the brain.
The best way to treat an ischemic stroke is with tPA or aspirin – two clot-busting drugs.
There’s only a short time frame where tPA can be administered, but it’s very effective.
When a minor stroke or TIA is happening, sometimes aspirin can help since it thins the blood.
However, do NOT self-diagnose and give someone aspirin when they look like they’re having a stroke – it could potentially kill them.
You don’t know if they’re having an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, and taking aspirin during a hemorrhagic stroke could be fatal.
3. Surgery (Mechanical Embolectomy) for Ischemic Stroke
When blot-busting drugs are not feasible stroke treatment options, doctors will consider surgery.
A surgery used to treat ischemic stroke is called a mechanical embolectomy, where a small mechanical device is used to remove the clot directly from the artery.
Part 2: Best Stroke Treatment Options in the Clinic
Once the stroke has been treated in the hospital, rehabilitation will begin as soon as possible.
After discharge from the hospital, you will either go to an inpatient rehabilitation facility or you will be sent home.
For those who go to the clinic, here are the best treatment options they might provide.
4. Formal Physical and Occupational Therapy
During inpatient rehabilitation, you will participate in rigorous physical and occupational therapy.
Physical therapy focuses on improving mobility in the body, while occupational therapy focuses on the activities of daily living.
Your physical therapist will likely guide you through stroke rehabilitation exercises to restore movement in the affected muscles.
Your occupational therapist will focus on other issues like sensory reeducation (if you lost your sense of feeling) or recreational therapy.
How Therapy Helps with Stroke Recovery
Your therapists will ask you to perform stroke exercises repeatedly because repetition is how the brain rewires itself through neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity allows your brain to form new neural connections around the damaged areas of the brain. This is how you will rebuild your skills after stroke.
Therefore, the point of rehab exercise isn’t to retrain the body, but to retrain the brain.
5. Speech Therapy for Language Difficulties
The best stroke treatment for language difficulties like aphasia is to work with a speech-language pathologist (SLP).
An SLP will help run you through various speech therapy exercises to help retrain the brain and improve language.
The more you practice, the better you will get.
Part 3: Best Unconventional Stroke Treatments
If you really want to take your recovery from stroke the extra mile, you can consider trying alternative treatments to boost your results.
Because these are alternative treatments, be sure to consult with your doctor before trying them to make sure that you’re not at extra risk of dangerous side effects.
Once you get the green light, here are some alternative stroke treatments to consider:
Traditional Chinese Medicine is perhaps best known for its skin-pricking practice of acupuncture.
We have also heard personal accounts from stroke survivors who had both outstanding results and no results at all – so acupuncture can be a hit-or-miss stroke treatment.
If you’re interested in natural, alternative ways to recover from stroke, acupuncture could be a good fit for you, as long as your doc says it’s okay.
7. Oxygen Therapy
Oxygen therapy involves lying in an oxygen chamber while inhaling pure oxygen for 60-90 minutes. This increases the amount of oxygen in the brain.
Providing extra oxygen to the brain during stroke recovery is beneficial because the brain actually consumes 20% of your body’s oxygen even though it represents 2% of your body weight.
The idea behind oxygen therapy is that when your brain is busy rewiring itself after stroke, it requires even more oxygen.
Oxygen therapy helps supply your brain with extra ‘brain food’ to fuel neuroplasticity.
Again, we have heard personal accounts from stroke survivors who both experience amazing results and zero results from oxygen therapy.
Since this stroke treatment is new, most insurances don’t cover it, so you may want to consider other less-expensive treatment options.
8. Magnetic Brain Stimulation
Magnetic brain stimulation is a cutting-edge treatment where a neurologist waves a magnetic device over your head.
The idea is to get both hemispheres of the brain working together, which is theorized to facilitate recovery after stroke.
This is a very new treatment that’s still undergoing heavy research, but it’s worth looking into if you’re desperate for a way to boost results after stroke.
9. Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell treatment for stroke recovery involves injecting stem cells into the body, where they travel around looking for damaged cells to restore.
The most effective treatments involve injecting the stem cells directly into the brain, but this obviously comes with much higher risks.
Also, because this treatment is very new, most insurances don’t cover it, and we’ve heard that it’s expensive (a few thousand dollars).
Part 4: Best Stroke Treatment Options at Home
Once you’re discharged from the clinic, you can continue to go to outpatient therapy.
However, outpatient therapy is less intense than inpatient therapy.
Therefore, if you want to keep improving, you need a solid home therapy regimen to go along with it.
Here’s our best recommendations for stroke treatment at home:
10. Home Exercise Programs
The best way to keep improving movement at home is to keep doing your stroke recovery exercises!
Your therapist will probably send you home with some sheets of written exercises, and you should do them every day, twice a day to see the best results.
If you struggle with post-stroke paralysis (i.e. hemiplegia), then starting with passive exercise is the best approach.
Passive rehab exercise simply involves assisting your affected side with your non-affected side.
Although you aren’t “doing it yourself,” passive exercise helps activate neuroplasticity – making it an effective treatment for hemiplegia.
11. Mirror Therapy
This treatment uses a tabletop mirror to ‘trick’ your brain into thinking that you’re moving your affected hand while you perform stroke exercises with your non-affected hand.
Surprisingly, this helps your brain rewire itself and introduce movement into paralyzed hands.
Part 5: The Worst Stroke Treatment Option to Avoid
The worst way to treat stroke is with compensation techniques.
Compensation techniques are shortcuts that you can use to get things done faster, like cooking with just you non-affected hand instead of both.
While this helps you live your life, it becomes counterproductive to your recovery when you get too comfortable with them.
Compensation vs. Recovery
Compensation involves “performing an old movement in a new manner” while recovery involves “restoring the ability to perform a movement in the same manner as it was performed before injury.”
For example, if you can’t pick up a spoon with your right hand anymore, a compensation technique involves using your left hand instead.
Recovery, on the other hand, involves working really freaking hard to restore movement in your right hand. This way you can pick the spoon up with your right hand like you did before stroke.
How to Maximize Your Recovery from Stroke
You can use compensation techniques to improve your safety during recovery – and you should especially use them when instructed by your therapist.
But for the sake of achieving the highest recovery possible, don’t get too used to them.
Try your best to remain curious about your potential and constantly ask yourself, “Do I still need this shortcut? Or can I try doing this the hard way today?”
By outgrowing your compensation techniques, you will get closer and closer to a full recovery from stroke.
And there you have it! These are some of the best treatment options for stroke that you can get at the clinic or at home.
Remember to emphasize lots of repetition while you participate in rehabilitation because that’s how you rewire your brain.
Also remember to stay constantly curious about your potential. Try to do things without shortcuts as often as you can.
Work hard, be patient, and you will achieve your best recover from stroke.