15 best practices during the stroke recovery process
Stroke recovery can be tricky because every stroke is different, and therefore every recovery will be different.
To help shed some light on the stroke recovery process, we compiled our 15 best tips.
We hope they help you avoid common pitfalls that happen during stroke rehabilitation.
Let’s jump right in.
Healing the Brain during Stroke Recovery
A stroke occurs when the supply of blood in the brain is blocked by either a clogged artery (ischemic stroke) or burst artery (hemorrhagic stroke).
Stroke recovery involves healing the damage in the brain and rehabilitating the side effects.
Here are our top tips for recovery:
1. Know How the Size and Location of Stroke Impacts Side Effects
The biggest mistake: Forgetting to educate yourself on all possible stroke side effects that may surface later
Stroke recovery varies from patient to patient depending on the size and location of stroke.
There’s also a significant difference between a stroke on the right side of the brain vs a stroke on the left side of the brain.
For example, a left-side stroke that damages the language center of the brain can result in aphasia, a language disorder.
On the other hand, a right-side stroke that damages the emotion center of the brain can result in emotional lability, an emotional disorder.
Stay on top of the potential stroke side effects so that you know what to expect.
2. Focus on Massed Practice to Recover from Stroke Efficiently
The biggest mistake: Forgetting that stroke rehabilitation exercise is about retraining the brain
In order to recover from stroke, your brain needs to rewire itself through neuroplasticity, the process of forming and strengthening neural pathways in the brain.
Your brain needs a high number of repetitions (“massed practice”) in order to successfully rewire itself and heal. Without a high number of repetitions and a consistent rehab routine, your brain won’t have what it needs to recover lost movement.
So don’t exercise in vain – make sure that you’re utilizing a high number of repetitions so that your efforts produce results.
Bonus: Download our free Stroke Rehab Exercises ebook. (Link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading.)
3. Focus on Speed Instead of Time During Stroke Recovery
The biggest mistake: Asking “how long will stroke recovery take?” instead of “what can I do to speed up recovery?”
If you’re curious about how long stroke recovery takes, know that it’s very tough to estimate recovery time. Generally speaking, recovery from mild stroke could take around 6 months and recovery from massive stroke could take years or even decades.
It can be frustrating to focus on how much longer recovery might take, so shift your focus to something empowering: things you can do to recover from stroke quickly. (Hint: Repetition, like we mentioned earlier, is the key to a fast recovery.)
Treatments During Stroke Recovery
Learning how to recover from stroke is all about finding the best treatments for stroke side effects.
4. Treat Spasticity Naturally
The biggest mistake: Using Botox to relieve spasticity without a proper rehabilitation exercise regimen
Spasticity is muscle stiffness that occurs when stroke damages part of the brain that controls your muscles.
A common treatment for spasticity is Botox… While Botox is effective, it’s only a temporary treatment, and you’ll need to keep going back for more. Botox doesn’t help rewire the brain and address the root problem.
The best spasticity treatment – which is also an all-natural treatment – is by rewiring your brain with repetitive stroke exercises. By performing therapeutic movements over and over, you rewire the brain and your muscles will relax again.
5. Don’t Over-Do Physical Therapy During Rehabilitation
The biggest mistake: Exercising too much
Now, don’t get us wrong — exercise is important during stroke recovery — but don’t over do it! In fact, one of the best ways to overcome stroke is by getting lots of sleep!
While repetition is important, too much exercise can start to hinder your progress. You need a good amount of rest and sleep after stroke in order to successfully recover.
During sleep, your brain stores information related to motor tasks that you performed that day. Think of it as your brain’s opportunity to file important documents about motor recovery that it can access later. You won’t want to skip out on that.
6. Know the Best Ways to Recover from Paralysis After Stroke
The biggest mistake: Believing that recovery isn’t possible – there’s always hope
There’s always hope for overcoming post-stroke paralysis.
Even when doctors say that there’s no hope for recovery, they’re just legally obligated to say that. You should always believe in the best possible outcome because there are so many stories of stroke survivors recovering far more than doctors expected.
Furthermore, believing that recovery is possible will motivate you to take the action necessary to get there. See this guide on how to recover from post-stroke paralysis even when you think there’s no hope.
7. Try Alternative Stroke Treatments
The biggest mistake: Dismissing alternative stroke treatments that could have a huge impact
Some stroke survivors respond very well to acupuncture treatments. Others don’t see much benefit. This is because every stroke is different, and everyone will benefit from different therapies. If you have reached a plateau in your recovery, then alternative treatments like acupuncture could give your brain the stimulation it needs to recover. You’ll never know until you try!
8. Experiment with Different Stroke Therapies Until You Find the One
The biggest mistake: Settling for a mediocre stroke recovery regimen
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that rehab exercises should take center stage during your stroke recovery.
These are powerful programs that are designed to help you activate neuroplasticity and see the results you desire.
No matter what you choose, keep searching and trying different rehabilitation options until you find the one that provides the most benefit to you.
9. Keep Your Stroke Prevention Game Strong
The biggest mistake: Forgetting that healthy food can be just as powerful as medicine
Stroke survivors are at higher risk of stroke, so prevention is important.
Often, a healthy diet after stroke is one of the best ways to manage stroke risk factors like high cholesterol and central obesity.
Also, if your doctor has prescribed you any medication like aspirin to prevent stroke, be sure to take it. It could save your life!
10. Have Hope for Overcoming Strange Stroke Side Effects
The biggest mistake: Feeling stuck because someone said it’s impossible
If you have any strange stroke side effects – like tingling in your arm after stroke or toes that curl under or post-stroke dementia – don’t feel like it’s a lost cause. There’s a solution for almost every stroke side effect, you just have to go looking for it!
(Luckily, we’ve already listed the treatments for common stroke side effects.)
After talking to thousands of stroke survivors over the years, one thing is clear: determined individuals go much farther during stroke recovery because they refuse to give up.
So if someone says that you’ll never be able to walk again, challenge them! Try to see if you can do it anyway, and we bet you will! Because when you put in the work, the results will follow.
Understanding the Stroke Recovery Process
As you recover after stroke, you may get confused about the process. These last few tips help bring clarity to the stroke recovery process:
11. Don’t Panic About the Natural Ebb and Flow of Stroke Recovery
The biggest mistake: Panicking when your results start to backslide
If you feel like stroke recovery gets worse during certain times, don’t panic! It’s just the normal ebb and flow of recovery.
Some backsliding, however, could be a sign of regression — but that’s very rare. Most often, small backslides in progress are simply part of the stroke recovery process.
It’s very normal to take two steps forward and one step back – or even five steps back. While it can be frustrating, trust that when you zoom out and look at the big picture, there’s always an upward pattern of growth.
12. Maintain Hope for a Full Recovery from Stroke
The biggest mistake: Not believing that a full recovery from stroke is possible
Statistically speaking, about 10% of stroke patients achieve a full recovery.
However, we believe that number can be much higher if more stroke patients are told that they can achieve a full recovery! Using your psychology to your advantage is very important during this stage.
A great way to maximize your potential for a full recovery is to remain aware of your compensation techniques, which are like shortcuts that can become crutches when over-relied on.
For the full story on how to achieve a full recovery, keep reading.
13. Don’t Let the 3-Month Plateau Discourage You
The biggest mistake: Giving up on stroke recovery when results slow down
Unfortunately, the plateau is real — but! It doesn’t mean what you might think it means. While it’s true that recovery typically slows down after about 3-6 months after stroke, it does not mean that progress will stop. Recovery will only stop when YOU stop. If you experience a plateau, it’s a sign to double up on your efforts, not back down.
14. Overcome Plateaus with Variety and Challenge
The biggest mistake: Keeping your stroke recovery regimen the same
One reason a plateau occurs is because your brain gets used to the stimulation you’re giving it. A great way to bust through a plateau is to switch up your regimen so that your brain has a new kind of stimulation.
You can also overcome a plateau by increasing the challenge of your regimen. Challenge is an important ingredient in stroke recovery, and you need to have the perfect amount (not too much, not too little).
It’s likely that a plateau can happen from too little challenge. By increasing the challenge in your regimen, you can bounce back from a plateau.
15. Develop a Support Network of Friends and Family
The biggest mistake: Trying to recover from stroke alone
As you progress through your stroke recovery, you’re likely to have a team of therapists and doctors supporting you. Once you’re on your own, though, it’s important not to stay alone! Make time in your schedule to socialize and relax with friends and family. Having others around can help ease any depression and anxiety that might creep up on you during your recovery.
Our online stroke support group is a great place to find support from other stroke survivors.
Follow all 15 of these steps, and you will be on the fast track to recovery.