There are many different methods for regaining arm movement after stroke — but which one is best?
Because every stroke is different, every person will respond differently to treatment. So the best arm recovery method for one person might not fit another person.
Therefore, experimentation with different arm recovery techniques is critical for maximizing success.
Before we discuss the various methods for regaining arm movement after stroke, you need to know some essential background information.
How to Regain Arm Movement After Stroke
Many stroke survivors struggle with poor arm mobility after stroke, specifically when the stroke affects the motor cortex of the brain.
When the brain cannot send signals to your arm, you will have difficulty using it.
Therefore, the solution to regaining arm movement is to rewire the brain so that it can send the correct signals to move your arm.
This is possible through neuroplasticity, your brain’s natural ability to rewire itself and form new neural pathways.
Even after stroke has damaged the motor cortex of the brain, the healthy surrounding areas of the brain can take over – but it needs your help to happen.
Neuroplasticity Improves Arm Mobility
In order to activate neuroplasticity, you need to practice whatever skill you want to relearn or improve. In this case, you need to practice moving your arm.
When we practice something, specific neural pathways in our brain are activated. Initially, these pathways might be weak. But when you practice over and over and over, these neural pathways become stronger and stronger.
That’s why arm rehabilitation exercises are the best way to regain arm movement after stroke. They help strengthen the connections in your brain that control your arm.
This will help “relink mind to muscle” so that, when your brain fires a signal for your arm to move, your arm moves in response.
And this brings us to the first method for regaining arm movement after stroke.
Methods for Regaining Arm Movement After Stroke
1. Arm Rehabilitation Exercises
Practicing physical therapy arm exercises for stroke patients regularly can help improve mobility in your arm. The brain needs consistent stimulation to rewire itself efficiently, so try to exercise daily. This will produce the best results.
2. Range of Motion Exercises
If your arm is stiff with spasticity, then doing stretches and range of motion exercises can help loosen things up. When spasticity is severe, you may need splints to help you out (mentioned below).
3. Botox Injections
When spasticity is severe, you can use nerve blockers like Botox to temporarily reduce the spasticity. While the effects eventually wear off – requiring repeat treatments – it can help loosen your arm up enough to practice exercises.
This creates a window of opportunity to get neuroplasticity activated so that, eventually, you won’t need repeat Botox injections. Instead, your arm spasticity will naturally go down as your mobility improves from the exercises.
4. Arm Pedaling
A great piece of stroke rehab equipment for arm mobility is an arm peddler. Because the movement is bilateral, you can use your non-affected arm to assist your affected arm. Bilateral training like this is particularly beneficial for stroke patients.
5. Arm Skating
Some occupational therapists like using arm skates with stroke patients that have severe arm impairments. You can use it with the help of a therapist or caregiver to improve range of motion in your arm.
6. Arm Splints
If you have severe spasticity or paralysis in your arm, you can also use splints to prop your arm open. After doing this, you can do little exercises like this video with our favorite physical therapists, Bob and Brad:
7. FitMi Home Therapy
Whether you have severe or mild arm impairments, doing high repetition of arm exercises is the key to recovery. Getting motivated to do that can be tough, and Flint Rehab’s FitMi home therapy device helps solve that problem by gamifying physical therapy for stroke patients.
How Fast Can Your Arm Improve?
All of these arm recovery methods might make you wonder how long recovery will take.
Generally speaking, the more severe your arm spasticity and impairments are, the longer recovery will take.
If you have paralysis, recovery is thought to take even longer. However – we are challenging this idea!
We have seen a stroke patient named Ron recover movement in his paralyzed arm after just 3 weeks of daily physical therapy!
Ron was using FitMi home therapy to exercise his arm, and the repetition helped quickly reconnect mind to muscle. His doctors didn’t think recovery was possible, but he proved them wrong.
Here’s the full story:
“My husband suffered a stroke caused by a dissecting carotid artery in late May of this year. He lost 40% of his left hemisphere of his brain causing right side paralysis.
His speech was slightly impaired but thankfully Drs believe he is a rare left handed person with speech located in right hemisphere of his brain!
Ron was in ICU for a week, followed by a rehab hospital for five more weeks. He came home and has done out patient therapy three days a week since.
About three weeks ago I ordered the FitMi and just this past week he moved his arm for the very first time!!! He and I both think the repetitive movement of the arm has given his brain the signal that it’s there and ready to move!!!
He will continue with both the FitMi and his other therapies for as long as it takes to fully recover!!!” – Lisa, Ron’s wife
So if you have arm paralysis or severe spasticity, know that there’s hope for a speedy recovery.
It’s all about experimenting with various arm recovery methods until you find the best fit for you.
Best of luck as you begin your search!