Stroke treatment occurs in two critical phases:
First, doctors stop the stroke with advanced procedures. Then, stroke rehabilitation begins to treat the side effects.
We rounded up the top 12 stroke treatments to help you find the best options for you.
There’s even a common stroke treatment that’s best avoided at the end.
Let’s dive in.
How a Stroke Is Treated
Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the supply of blood to the brain is compromised by either a clogged artery (ischemic stroke) or burst artery (hemorrhagic stroke).
This causes brain damage and can sometimes lead to death. Therefore, stroke requires immediate medical attention.
The faster treatment is administered, the more brain they can save.
When it comes to stroke, time is brain!
Here are the types of stroke treatment used during phase one:
1. Surgery (Hemicraniectomy) to Treat Hemorrhagic Stroke
A hemorrhagic stroke is caused when an artery in the brain bursts, causing blood to leak into the area surrounding area the brain.
While non-surgical options for hemorrhagic stroke can be explored, surgery is often the best way to treat hemorrhagic stroke.
A common and risky type of surgery used to treat hemorrhagic stroke is called a hemicraniectomy, where part of the skull is removed to relieve pressure from swelling in the brain.
2. Clot-Busting Drugs to Treat Ischemic Stroke
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot clogs an artery in the brain.
The best way to treat an ischemic stroke is with tPA or aspirin – two clot-busting drugs.
There’s only a short time frame where tPA can be administered, but it’s very effective.
When a minor stroke or TIA is happening, sometimes aspirin can help since it thins the blood.
However, do NOT self-diagnose and give someone aspirin when they look like they’re having a stroke – it could potentially kill them.
You don’t know if they’re having an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, and taking aspirin during a hemorrhagic stroke could be fatal.
3. Surgery (Mechanical Embolectomy) to Treat Ischemic Stroke
When blot-busting drugs are not feasible stroke treatment options, doctors will consider surgery.
A surgery used to treat ischemic stroke is called a mechanical embolectomy, where a small mechanical device is used to remove the clot directly from the artery.
Stroke Treatment During Clinical Rehabilitation
Once the stroke has been treated in the hospital, rehabilitation will begin as soon as possible.
But where will the stroke recovery process take you?
After discharge from the hospital, you will either go to an inpatient rehabilitation facility or you will be sent home.
For those who go to the clinic, we’re about to discuss the best treatment options they might provide. Then we will discuss treatment at home.
4. Physical and Occupational Therapy
During inpatient rehabilitation, you will participate in rigorous physical and occupational therapy.
Physical therapy focuses on improving mobility in the body through stroke rehabilitation exercises.
Occupational therapy focuses on improving the patient’s ability to perform the activities of daily living, like feeding and getting dressed.
During stroke rehabilitation, massed practice is emphasized to promote healing in the brain.
5. Speech Therapy
Stroke treatment for language difficulties, like aphasia, involves speech therapy, often with a speech-language pathologist (SLP).
An SLP will help run you through various speech therapy exercises to help retrain the brain and improve language skills.
Alternative Stroke Treatment Options
To help boost stroke recovery even further, you can try alternative treatments, like the ones below.
Be sure to consult with your doctor first to make sure that you’re not putting yourself at risk.
Acupuncture is a great alternative stroke treatment. Although, it has a wobbly track record.
These studies are backed up by personal stories from stroke survivors who had both outstanding results and no results at all .
So acupuncture can be a hit-or-miss stroke treatment.
If you’re interested in natural, alternative ways to recover from stroke, acupuncture could be a good fit for you, as long as your doc says it’s okay.
7. Oxygen Therapy
Oxygen therapy is a way to treat stroke that involves lying in an oxygen chamber while inhaling pure oxygen for 60-90 minutes.
This increases the amount of oxygen in the brain, which helps promote healing.
The idea behind oxygen therapy is this:
When your brain is busy rewiring itself after stroke, it requires even more oxygen – more than the 20% it already consumes from your body.
Oxygen therapy helps supply your brain with extra oxygen, which is thought to fuel neuroplasticity.
Since this stroke treatment is new, most insurances don’t cover it, so you may want to consider other less-expensive options.
8. Magnetic Brain Stimulation
Magnetic brain stimulation is a cutting-edge treatment where a neurologist waves a magnetic device over your head.
The idea is to get both hemispheres of the brain working together, which is theorized to facilitate recovery after stroke.
This is a very new treatment that’s still undergoing heavy research, but it’s worth looking into if you’re desperate for a way to boost results after stroke.
9. Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy for stroke involves injecting stem cells into the body, where they travel around looking for damaged cells to restore.
The most effective treatments involve injecting the stem cells directly into the brain, but this obviously comes with much higher risks.
Also, because this treatment is very new, most insurances don’t cover it, and we’ve heard that it’s expensive (a few thousand dollars).
10. Etanercept Injections
We’re conflicted about this stroke treatment, but we wouldn’t be doing our due diligence without including it.
One of the latest stroke treatments is an injectable drug called etanercept, which is normally used for treating arthritis.
However, when this drug was used in stroke patients, it improved mobility in 85% of subjects.
Etanercept is not FDA-approved for stroke patients, so insurance will not cover this expensive stroke treatment.
But don’t give up hope! There are plenty of other ways to recover from stroke at home:
At-Home Stroke Treatment Options
Once you’re discharged from the clinic, you can continue to go to outpatient therapy, which is less aggressive.
Therefore, if you want to keep improving, you need a solid home therapy regimen to go along with it.
Here’s our best recommendations for stroke treatment at home:
11. At-Home Stroke Exercise Programs
Everyone needs to participate in physical therapy for stroke recovery at home.
The simplest way to achieve this is by doing your stroke recovery exercises! Ideally, you should do them every day.
In the best case scenario, you should do them twice a day – while making sure to rest or take days off when necessary.
12. Mirror Therapy
This treatment uses a tabletop mirror to ‘trick’ your brain into thinking that you’re moving your affected hand while you perform stroke exercises with your non-affected hand.
Surprisingly, this helps your brain rewire itself and introduce movement into paralyzed hands.
The Worst Stroke Treatment to Avoid
The worst way to treat stroke is with compensation techniques.
Compensation techniques are shortcuts that save you time, like using your non-affected hand to do everything.
While this helps you get things done faster, it can hinder rehabilitation when you get too comfortable with them.
To understand why, let’s look at the difference between compensation vs recovery:
Compensation involves “performing an old movement in a new manner.”
Recovery, on the other hand, involves “restoring the ability to perform a movement in the same manner as it was performed before injury.”
For example, if a right-handed person lost mobility in their right hand, then a compensation technique would involve eating with the left hand.
Recovery, on the other hand, would involve working really hard to eat with the right hand like before stroke.
By working hard to outgrow compensation techniques, you can maximize your potential to reach a full recovery from stroke.
Wrap Up: The Best Stroke Treatment
And there you have it!
As you seek treatment for stroke, be sure to explore all your options.
Also ensure that you’re focusing on massed practice, because repetition is how the brain heals after stroke.
Work hard, be patient, and you will achieve your best recovery from stroke.