The number of ways to recover from stroke are seemingly endless…
To help you choose the best methods, we compiled the 19 best stroke rehabilitation methods.
Before we dive in, there’s something you should know if you want the fastest recovery from stroke:
Neuroplasticity Is Your Ticket to a Successful Recovery from Stroke
The best stroke treatment revolve around neuroplasticity, because this is how you will heal your brain after stroke.
Neuroplasticity is the mechanism that your brain uses to rewire and heal itself after injury.
Almost every stroke treatment revolves around activating neuroplasticity somehow. This is your golden ticket to recovery.
Which begs the question, how can you activate your neuroplasticity?
1. Repetitive Practice Is the Best Way to Improve Movement and Reduce Spasticity
The best way to activate neuroplasticity is with massed practice.
It’s arguably the best method for stroke recovery, hands down.
Each time you practice something, you form and strengthen connections in your brain.
This is how you can reverse most of your stroke side effects, like impaired movement after stroke.
The more you practice moving, the better you will get! That’s why practice makes perfect.
2. Electrical Stimulation Can Boost Your Gains from Repetitive Practice
Nothing beats massed practice for improving movement after stroke.
However, electrical stimulation comes in a pretty close second because it helps you maximize your benefit from repetitive practice.
During electrical stimulation, gentle electrical impulses are applied to your skin over the affected muscles.
This jolt sends a huge signal to your brain and helps spark neuroplasticity – literally.
Studies show that electrical stimulation is effective for improving movement after stroke – and combining e-stim with repetitive practice leads to the best results.
3. Mirror Therapy Can Help You Recover from Arm and Hand Paralysis
If you struggle with paralysis in your arm or hands after stroke, mirror therapy can help introduce movement into those muscles.
Mirror therapy works by placing a tabletop mirror over your affected arm or hand.
Then you perform hand or arm exercises with your non-affected side.
The reflection “tricks” your brain into believing that it’s moving your affected side, even though it’s just a reflection.
This method has been proven to be very effective for reversing paralysis in the arm or hand after stroke.
4. Mental Practice Can Help You Improve at Just About Everything Else
Mental practice is the art of visualizing yourself doing something.
It’s scientifically proven to help activate neuroplasticity the same way that physical practice does.
By mentally rehearsing your rehab exercises before you practice them, you can kick start neuroplasticity.
Then, when you start your physical therapy, you can capitalize on those gains. This will help maximize your results.
5. Sleep is still one of the best ways to recover from stroke
As you can see, exercise is key to recovery. But don’t sacrifice sleep over it!
When you crave lots of sleep after stroke, listen to your body and let yourself sleep!
Sleep gives your brain a chance to process and assimilate all of the stimulation it received from your day. Give your brain the chance to recover.
Sometimes, the need for sleep is extreme, and that’s normal.
For example, some stroke survivors wake up, get dressed, and then immediately crave a nap. This is normal.
Even the effort and stimulation from getting dressed is enough to drain your mental battery. Give yourself ample time to recharge.
6. Speech Therapy Exercises Can Help Reverse Language Disorders
When stroke affects your language skills, it results in a condition known as aphasia.
There are many different kinds of aphasia and the best treatment really varies from person to person.
Therefore, the best treatment for aphasia is by working with a speech-language pathologist (SLP).
SLPs are specialists who can tailor a speech therapy program custom to you.
7. Speech therapy apps are just as effective as clinical therapy
When insurance runs out and you can’t afford to see an SLP, speech therapy apps can offer an effective way to continue speech therapy at home.
8. Speech therapy can actually help with swallowing problems
A Speech Language Pathologist is highly trained in treating language disorders after stroke, and they also know how to treat swallowing problems, too.
Swallowing problems (also known as dysphagia) can be treated with therapeutic exercises that retrain the throat muscles.
Again, it’s best to work with an SLP to develop a plan to target your unique condition.
9. Singing therapy can help reverse aphasia even when you can’t speak
Sometimes aphasia is severe and stroke patients can’t say a single word.
Even though they can’t say their words, they can likely sing their words. This is all about the way the brain is organized.
Language is a left-brain task, and singing is a right-brain task.
When stroke affects the left-hemisphere but leaves the right-hemisphere unaffected, stroke patients can access language through singing.
Through singing therapy, stroke patients can regain the ability to speak normally.
10. Oxygen therapy is an expensive but potentially powerful treatment
Oxygen therapy works by supplying 100% oxygen to patients in a pressurized chamber.
This increases the amount of oxygen in the blood and therefore the amount of oxygen delivered to the brain.
This extra oxygen serves as “brain food” to help speed up the process of neuroplasticity.
Since the brain already consumes 20% of the body’s oxygen, this theory makes sense. The studies, however, are conflicted.
Some studies report a reversal of paralysis, increased sensation, and renewed use of language.
Other studies say that oxygen therapy does not work for stroke recovery.
Therefore, oxygen therapy can be something to consider if you can afford it and you’re anxious for a radical and potentially effective treatment.
11. Botox can help temporarily relieve spasticity
Spasticity involves the stiff, tight muscles that often occur in the affected side after stroke.
It occurs when the brain loses connection with those muscles. Botox is an injectable drug that acts like a “nerve block” that effectively treats spasticity temporarily.
Botox does not help rewire the brain, so you will need to keep going back for treatments when it wears off.
The only way to treat spasticity long-term is to rewire your brain with repetitive practice.
Although Botox is temporary, it’s still useful if it can loosen up your affected muscles enough to do some good repetitive exercise and rewire your brain.
12. Acupuncture can work wonders for some stroke patients
If you’re into alternative treatments, acupuncture has worked wonders for some stroke patients.
It can help improve mobility and sensation, especially when the acupuncturist adds electrical stimulation to the treatment.
From what we have heard, some people see amazing results and others don’t.
It’s similar to the clinical trials conducted on acupuncture for stroke, where some show positive results and others don’t.
With such mixed results, acupuncture is a good option if you’re willing to take the risk of it not working out.
It could be worth it since there’s potential for some massive gains!
13. Sensory reeducation can help relieve numbness and tingling after stroke
If you have numbness or tingling after stroke, it’s treatable with sensory re-education exercises.
Sensory reeducation aims to retrain the brain to correctly interpret your senses through repetitive practice!
(Are you starting to see why repetitive practice is our #1 best method for stroke recovery?)
14. A healthy diet can boost recovery after stroke
Everyone has their own opinion of what foods help with stroke recovery.
Some argue for the ketogenic diet (high fat, low carb), others argue for a generally healthy, whole foods diet.
From all of the studies we’ve seen, there is a good argument for both sides.
A good rule of thumb is that if you have stroke risk factors like high cholesterol or central obesity, it’s best to avoid a high fat diet and opt for a healthy, whole food diet after stroke.
If your weight is well-regulated, then you can talk to your doctor about trying the ketogenic diet.
15. AFOs can help temporarily treat foot drop
When you cannot lift the front part of your foot up (a movement known as dorsiflexion), then you may have foot drop after stroke.
Your therapist is likely to recommend an AFO, which is a brace for your foot that helps prop your foot up.
While this helps reduce the risk of falling, this doesn’t help rewire the brain. In fact, it could lead to learned-nonuse.
Therefore, the best way to cure foot drop after stroke is by rewiring the brain with foot drop exercises.
16. Exercise or surgery can help cure curled toes
If your toes curl under – often in a painful way – then you could have a post-stroke side effect called curled toes.
It’s possible to reverse the condition with curled toes exercises. However, when the condition is severe, exercises are almost impossible to do.
If your condition is severe, you have two options: be patient and try doing the exercises passively (i.e. passive exercise) or resort to surgery.
We recommend exhausting all your options before doing surgery, because it’s irreversible.
17. Vision therapy might be able to help improve eyesight
Vision problems after stroke can be tricky because there are 2 possible causes:
The muscles that control your eyes have been affected and/or the visual processing center of your brain has been affected.
It’s tough to tell without the help of a progressive eye doctor. Try your best to find one.
Until then, try vision improvement exercises at home to see if you can improve the condition on your own.
18. Repetitive practice can help reduce post-stroke pain
Post-stroke pain can be caused by a sensory problem or a spasticity problem.
Sometimes sensory reeducation helps, but if it’s ineffective, talk to your doctor about possible medication to help relieve intense pain.
When post-stroke pain is caused by spasticity, you can relieve the pain with repetitive practice of rehab exercise.
A stroke patient who used Flint Rehab’s FitMi interactive therapy device saw a decrease in his post-stroke pain after 2 weeks of massed practice with FitMi.
This shows that rewiring the brain can help reduce post-stroke pain in some cases.
19. FitMi has helped stroke survivors rapidly recover from hemiplegia and hemiparesis
Hemiplegia involves paralysis on the affected side of the body, and hemiparesis involves weakness on the affected side of the body.
Both of these conditions can be treated with repetitive practice of stroke recovery exercises.
Summary: The Best Ways to Recover from Stroke
And that concludes our 19 best methods for stroke recovery!
For movement complications, the best treatment involves repetitive practice of therapeutic rehab exercise, which helps rewire the brain.
For language conditions, you can try speech therapy and even singing therapy. And for everything else, try the methods that resonate with you.
Just remember that neuroplasticity is the most important ingredient.
What stroke treatments have worked well for you? Please leave us a comment below to share your experience with our community!