Fatigue after stroke should be taken seriously because it can drain patients of the energy needed to participate in rehabilitation.
To help with this condition, you’re about to discover different treatments to get some relief from post-stroke fatigue.
But first, in order to find the best solution, you need to understand the various causes of this condition.
Let’s dive straight in.
What Fatigue After Stroke Feels Like
Post-stroke fatigue is different from just feeling tired after a long day. For many stroke patients, fatigue feels like hitting a wall or a constant lack of energy and strength.
Even if a stroke patient just woke up from a nap two hours ago, (s)he might want to go right back to bed due to post-stroke fatigue.
Also, fatigue after stroke does not always correlate with how much you do or exert yourself, and it doesn’t always improve with rest.
As you can imagine, this can interfere with recovery and quality of life after stroke because patients have less energy for rehabilitation and social activities.
To make matters worse, post-stroke fatigue is common, affecting 39-72% of stroke patients. [Source: NCBI]
Fortunately, by understanding the cause(s) of fatigue after stroke, you can identify ways to partially relieve the symptoms.
Causes of Post-Stroke Fatigue
The different causes of post-stroke fatigue stem from biological, psychological, and/or emotional factors.
The biological causes of fatigue after stroke include:
- Motor impairments. When patients sustain motor impairments after stroke, movement requires more energy than before. This can lead to post stroke fatigue.
- Post stroke pain. Pain requires an enormous amount energy to cope with, which can lead to fatigue.
- Sleeping disorders. Conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea can interfere with quality sleep and cause fatigue after stroke.
- Medication. Sometimes fatigue is a side effect of certain prescription drugs.
Aside from biological factors, the following emotional and psychological factors may also contribute to post-stroke fatigue:
- Post stroke depression. Heavy emotions like depression require immense energy to deal with.
- Burnout. Stroke recovery requires hard work, and if patients are pushed too hard (by themselves or caregivers), they can fatigue and burnout.
- Anxiety. Many stroke patients live with more fear (for example, fear of having another stroke), which leads to anxiety and fatigue from constant worry.
The severity of post stroke fatigue is not correlated with the severity of the stroke. Even if you had a mild stroke, you can still feel extreme fatigue.
Now that you know the causes of post-stroke fatigue, let’s move onto the solutions.
Solutions for Fatigue After Stroke
Here are 9 tips that can help you cope with post-stroke fatigue:
1. Check for fatigue as a side effects of medication and adjust appropriately
If you are currently taking medication with fatigue listed as a side effect, bring it up with your doctor. (S)he may be able to switch your medication with something else.
Alternatively, taking these medications at a different time of the day may help too.
2. Listen to your body and rest when you can
While hard work and discipline will help you recover from stroke faster, you may experience fatigue or regression if you push too hard. If your body is asking for sleep, then let yourself sleep.
3. Communicate your energy levels with those around you
When you’re feeling particularly drained, it might not show on the outside. It’s important to let others know how you’re feeling. Others might be able to access more compassion for irritable behavior if they know you’re feeling fatigued.
4. Try gentle treadmill training
Another solution for fatigue after stroke is exercise, which may come as a surprise since it requires energy. However, one study concluded that treadmill training could help you rebuild stamina after stroke and reduce fatigue.
Be careful not to burn yourself out on the treadmill, though. Start with just a few minutes and increase the duration gently.
5. Focus on one thing at a time
Trying to do too much is a big energy drain. If you want to reduce fatigue after stroke, then it’s best to slow down and do things one at a time.
Some stroke survivors are literally forced to slow down and single-task because of their stroke side effects. Others will have to consciously remind themselves to slow down and conserve energy for the rest of the day.
6. Give yourself more time to do daily activities
Movement impairments that often accompany stroke can slow you down. In order to prevent yourself from feeling rushed, which is a big energy drain, give yourself extra time to do daily activities. Don’t let others make you feel pressured to move faster than you should.
7. Keep track of your energy patterns in a journal
Through your daily life, you might feel like your fatigue is unpredictable and sudden. But sometimes there’s a pattern; and when you’re aware of your patterns, you can prepare yourself accordingly. This is what stroke recovery journals are great for.
Try to keep a log of your daily energy levels and activities. You may notice that you feel particularly fatigued the day after a big day. Or you may notice that you feel fatigued when you skip your mid-morning nap.
The only way to notice these patterns is to write it down.
8. Seek support from others
Lastly, you don’t have to go through this alone. Seek support from friends, family, therapists, and support groups. Knowing that you’re not alone can provide the emotional support you need to keep progressing down the road to recovery.
9. Find emotional healing
If your post-stroke fatigue is caused by emotional and psychological factors like anxiety and depression, then addressing your emotions may help.
For more advice, the book Healing & Happiness After Stroke contains advice on the emotional side of stroke recovery.
Finding Energy for the Road to Recovery
Overall, post-stroke fatigue is a common yet unfortunate side effect that can interfere with quality of living and participation in rehabilitation.
Some of the biggest causes of fatigue after stroke are medication, mobility impairments, and emotional stressors like anxiety.
Treatment for post-stroke fatigue will depend upon the cause. Generally, plenty of rest helps. However, gentle exercise may also be essential for rebuilding stamina.
It’s important to work with your medical team to successfully find a treatment plan that’s right for you.
We hope these tips will help you find energy for the road to recovery.