Learning how to walk again after a stroke will help you regain your independence.
It can be a long process though because walking is a complex task that involves many different muscles groups and cognitive functions working together.
Learning How to Walk Again After Stroke
To help you get back on your feet, this article will guide you through all the steps that you need to take to walk again after a stroke.
Let’s dig in.
1. Rehabilitate Your Feet and Legs
Your feet and leg muscles are the foundation of walking. To walk, you need to put one foot in front of the other.
Many stroke survivors have difficulty moving one of their legs, however, and some survivors have a condition called foot drop, which involves difficulty with dorsiflexion (lifting the front part of your foot).
In order to regain the ability to use these muscles, you need to perform leg and foot drop exercises to retrain your brain.
Bonus: Download our free Stroke Rehab Exercises ebook. (Link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading.)
2. Work on Your Balance and Core
Balance is also crucial for walking.
Aside from your foot and leg exercises, it’s a good idea to practice balance exercises too.
This could involve standing on one leg for a couple minutes a day, or heel-to-toe walking.
And don’t forget about your core!
Having a strong core is essential for staying balanced while walking. So add some core exercises to your rehabilitation program too.
3. Relink Mind to Muscle
Rehab exercise will be the bread-and-butter of your walking rehabilitation program.
The more you practice using your muscles, the more strength and coordination you will gain.
Practice helps activate neuroplasticity, the mechanism that your brain uses to rewire itself and learn new skills. The more you repeat your rehab exercises, the stronger the new connections in your brain become.
So while you’re working on strengthening your feet, legs, and core, try to practice with lots of repetition.
4. Make Sure Your Vision and Spatial Awareness Are Functioning Properly
Good vision and spatial awareness are important for walking too.
You need to be able to see where you’re going and spot any bumps or obstacles in your path.
So if you have vision problems after stroke, then you might need vision therapy to improve your vision before you can safely walk.
You should also be aware of a condition known as hemineglect, which can cause stroke patients to be completely unaware of their affected side – and also unaware that they’re unaware!
This can be dangerous when you’re walking as you can bump into things and hurt yourself – and we don’t want that!
Typically, your doctor or therapist will let you know if you have one-sided neglect, and a caregiver will also be able to pick up on it too.
5. Try Task-Specific Training
Perhaps the best way to improve your walk is with “task-specific training,” which pretty much means to practice walking to get better at walking!
Your brain gets better at what you repeatedly practice, and, well, practicing your walk is a great way to get better at walking.
If you use a walker or a cane, that’s a great place to start. Try going on walks around your living room or around your neighborhood with a caregiver. Extend the duration of your walks as you get stronger.
If you don’t have enough movement to practice walking with a walker, that’s okay too. Just practice your foot, leg, and core rehab exercise diligently. They will help you will rebuild enough strength to progress to a walker or cane.
In fact, most therapists will start patients with strengthening exercises for the feet, legs, and core before they even begin with walking exercises because you need a solid foundation for safe practice.
Walking After Stroke
There’s a lot of work to do when it comes to improving your gait after stroke.
Muscle-wise, you want to work on retraining your feet, legs, and core so that you can improve your balance and coordination.
You also want to make sure that you have no vision or attention impairments that could make walking a hazard.
If you’re looking for a good home therapy program to help you improve your walking after stroke, then you might want to give FitMi a try!