When you look online for advice about numbness after stroke, it’s a little bare out there huh? Why is that?
Well, numbness and tingling are a couple strange stroke side effects that aren’t well-studied; so doctors can’t really talk about it with confidence.
To help fill the void, this article will discuss the main cause of numbness after stroke and how to fix it.
We’ll also share how long numbness may last after stroke at the end.
Let’s get started.
Causes of Numbness After Stroke
To understand why numbness after stroke happens, let’s use an example of numbness in your left hand.
Although it feels like there’s something wrong with your left hand, there’s actually nothing wrong with it at all.
Rather, your left hand feels numb because your brain is having trouble processing information from the sensory receptors in your hand.
Sometimes stroke affects your brain’s ability to interpret information from your sensory receptors, like the ones on your skin.
So although the sensory receptors in your hand are fine, your brain can’t process the information, so it feels numb.
Numbness After Stroke Is About Sensation
Numbness after stroke is usually a sensation problem.
Specifically, sensory issues arise from damage to the right side of the brain or the parietal and occipital lobes.
Sometimes it isn’t though, and in those cases, it’s best to talk with your doctor about other possible causes for your numbness after stroke.
But since it’s usually a sensation problem, the rest of this article will talk about how to treat numbness after stroke due to sensory issues.
How to Recover from Numbness After Stroke
The best way to fix sensory issues after stroke like numbness is with sensory reeducation.
Sensory reeducation involves rewiring the brain and retraining sensory pathways. This is accomplished through sensory reeducation exercises.
Here’s an example of how it works:
How Sensory Reeducation Works
Sensory reeducation involves retraining the brain how to feel.
An example of sensory reeducation exercise involves asking a caregiver to touch your skin in the numb/affected area while you aren’t looking.
After they touch your skin, you proceed to point to where you think they touched you. If you guess wrong, then your caregiver will move your finger to touch the actual spot they touched.
This sends signals to your brain that say, “I didn’t touch you here, I touched you there.” This helps retrain the brain to correctly interpret your senses.
The better your sensory perception becomes, the better chance you have of getting rid of numbness after stroke.
Massed Practice Is Key to Recovery
The key to overcoming numbness after stroke is to perform your sensory reeducation exercises consistently and repetitively.
This is also known as massed practice: performing high repetition in order to rewire the brain.
Each time you practice something, your brain rewires itself to get better at that task.
So massed practice of sensory reeducation exercises will help your brain get better at interpreting feeling again.
Do your exercises daily for best results.
Acupuncture May Help with Numbness After Stroke
The idea here is that the more sensory stimulation you send to your brain, the more sensation you will regain.
With that in mind, acupuncture might sound like a good option… but there are pros and cons.
The cons of acupuncture:
On the downside, acupuncture doesn’t involve your participation. Rather, you just lie there and the acupuncturist pricks your skin a hundred (or so) times.
This doesn’t stimulate neuroplasticity as well as sensory reeducation exercises can. Acupuncture is missing the element of massed practice.
The pros of acupuncture:
On the other hand, acupuncture has the potential to greatly boost stroke recovery, especially if your acupuncturist adds electrical stimulation.
Stimulating your affected side with needles and electricity is a great way of waking up your brain!
So although there is no massed practice, sometimes the stimulation alone is enough to spark feeling in your affected side.
Should You Try Acupuncture to Treat Numbness?
From our experience, acupuncture seems like a hit-or-miss treatment.
We’ve heard some stroke survivors rave about it, and we’ve heard some stroke survivors say that it did absolutely nothing. So, what should you do?
We think that you should try acupuncture if it’s safe for you (i.e. you don’t have a pacemaker and your doc says it’s O.K.) and you’re willing to give something new a shot without expectation of miracles.
That way, if something good happens, it’s great! And if nothing happens, it was worth the shot anyway.
How Long Does Numbness Last After Stroke?
Because numbness after stroke is a strange side effect, many patients want to know how long it will last.
Well, since every stroke is different, every patient will recover at different rates.
Your stroke recovery timeline will be much different from other patients.
If you practice your sensory reeducation exercises with utmost consistency, feeling may start to return within a few months.
Some patients may recover faster than others.
It all depends upon the size and location of your stroke, along with your work ethic.
The Formula for Fixing Numbness After Stroke
The best way to regain feeling after stroke is with daily sensory reeducation exercises and maybe some acupuncture if you’re interested.
While doing sensory reeducation exercises, be sure to emphasize massed practice. It’s the key to recovery after stroke.
Do you have numbness after stroke? What have you tried to get rid of it? Please share your experience with our community in the comments below!