Balance problems after stroke can be reversed with effective stroke treatment — but which one is right for you?
To help you find the best way to improve your balance after stroke, we rounded up the best data-driven treatments.
After we explain the top 5, we will help you estimate how long it will take you to regain your balance after stroke.
Let’s dig in.
What Causes Balance Problems after Stroke?
A stroke on one side of the brain affects the opposite side of the body.
For example, a left side stroke will impair the right side of the body, creating all sorts of imbalance issues.
When one side of the body isn’t cooperating as much as the other, it can affect your gait (manner of walking), balance, and coordination.
Luckily, as with most stroke side effects, it’s absolutely treatable through repetitive practice.
How Repetitive Practice Helps Stroke Survivors Regain Balance After Stroke
Repetitive practice is fairly straightforward:
It simply involves practicing a task you want to get better at in a repetitive fashion.
This is the key to stroke rehabilitation because repetition helps the brain rewire itself and form new neural connections.
This happens through neuroplasticity, the mechanism that your brain uses to lay new neural pathways and reinforce existing ones.
The more you rewire your brain, the more your balance will improve.
The key is to practice the right thing.
We’ll dig into that next.
How to Treat Balance Problems After Stroke
There are various causes of balance problems, so the best treatment for you will depend up on your stroke side effects.
To help you navigate these treatments, we have labeled who each treatment is best suited for.
1. Rehabilitation Exercise
The most common cause of poor balance after stroke is impaired muscle coordination in the legs and core.
If you can rewire the brain and improve coordination in your legs and core, then your balance will improve too.
To improve balance after stroke, start practicing rehab exercises that focus on 3 areas:
- Strengthening balance rehabilitation exercises
- Leg rehabilitation exercises
- Core rehabilitation exercises
The more you rewire the brain through practice, the more your balance will improve.
Who is this for?
Individuals with hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body) or hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body) can benefit from rehabilitation exercise.
2. Foot Drop Exercises
Foot drop is a condition that impairs your ability to lift the front of your foot, which can cause it to drag on the floor when you walk.
This is a dangerous stroke side effect because it impairs your balance and increases the likelihood of falling.
Foot drop exercises can help you regain mobility in your foot when practiced with regularity.
Who is this for?
Anyone who struggle with dorsiflexion (lifting the front part of their foot upward) can benefit from foot drop exercises.
3. Vision Deprivation Therapy
Some stroke patients suffer from impaired vision after stroke, and for once, it may be a good thing.
In this study, stroke patients were deprived of visual cues during balance rehabilitation programs.
Surprisingly, stroke patients who were deprived of visual cues improve their balance more than the control group.
The study suggests that overuse of visual cues may be a compensatory strategy for coping with balance problems after stroke.
Present the study to your therapist and ask if visual deprivation balance training might be a good fit for you.
If they say yes, be sure to practice under the supervision of your therapist or caregiver!
Who is this for?
If you don’t have a heightened fear of falling, then visual deprivation balance rehabilitation may be a good fit for you.
But be sure to check with your therapist because it could be a very dangerous activity without proper care.
4. Cognitive Training Exercises
Some balance issues are actually a cognitive problem, like impaired concentration and one-sided neglect (failing to notice the environment on your affected side).
When stroke affects your ability to concentrate or notice your environment, it can result in poor balance.
For example, you may slip on a step, not because your legs are weak, but because you simply did not notice the step.
Therefore, improving your attention can help with regaining balance after stroke.
Luckily, studies show you can improve your attention after stroke through attention process training.
Attention process training, such as cognitive training exercises, can help improve concentration and attention after stroke.
Just like you can rewire the brain to improve leg coordination, you can also improve cognitive function.
It’s all about repetitive practice!
5. Modified Yoga Therapy
If you enjoy yoga, then you’ll be pleased to know that modified yoga has been shown to help improve balance after stroke.
After doing yoga twice a week for 8 weeks, stroke patients improved in the following balance-related areas:
- Improved activities-specific balance confidence
- Reduced fear of falling
- Improve quality of life
Try participating in modified yoga sessions twice a week with a trained therapist, if you can. It’s important to work with a therapist familiar with stroke so that (s)he can modify each pose correctly.
Who is this for?
Anyone interested in improve their balance and quality of life!
How Long Does It Take to Get Your Balance Back After a Stroke?
According to our data-driven stroke recovery timeline, many stroke survivors improve their balance after about 6 months.
That’s roughly how long it takes to improve your gait (manner of walking) and other stroke side effects that affect balance.
Your recovery time may be shorter or longer depending upon the size and location of your stroke.
Every stroke is different, therefore every recovery takes different amounts of time.
The good news is that when you participate in rehabilitation consistently, your balance will start to improve.
Although it happens at different rates for everyone, you can regain balance after stroke with correct, consistent treatment.
Summary: Regaining Balance After Stroke
Balance problems after stroke are the result of various side effects such as hemiplegia, hemiparesis, and foot drop.
The best treatments involve repetitive practice. By repeating therapeutic stroke rehabilitation exercises, you can rewire the brain and improve balance after stroke.
Complimentary treatments like modified yoga and vision deprivation therapy may prove useful when practiced under a trained professional.
Overall, rest assured that balance problems will improve after stroke as long as you’re participating in regular therapy.