Sensory Reeducation: How to Achieve the Return of Sensation After Stroke

Sensory Reeducation: How to Achieve the Return of Sensation After Stroke

Sensory reeducation can help you achieve the return of sensation after stroke.

Sensory issues, like numbness after stroke, are common stroke side effects that leave many patients confused.

The good news is that sensory issues can be rehabilitated with the right strategy!

If you can’t feel hot or cold after stroke, or if you struggle with numbness and tingling sensation after stroke, then read on!

The solutions to your problems are below.

The Cause of Sensory Changes After Stroke

sides of the brain illustrating the cause of sensory issues after stroke

If stroke damaged the part of your brain that is responsible for interpreting your senses, then you may develop sensory issues after stroke.

Specifically, sensory issues arise from damage to the right side of the brain or the parietal and occipital lobes.

While sensory issues may seem mysterious, try not to feel overwhelmed by it. There is hope for recovery!

Just like you can rewire your brain to regain movement after stroke, you can rewire your brain to regain your senses.

This is often referred to as sensory reeducation.

Sensory Reeducation Helps Patients Regain Sensation After Stroke

woman touching her neck to regain sensation after stroke

Like everything in stroke rehab, sensory reeducation is achieved through neuroplasticity and repetitive practice.

Repeating sensory reeducation exercises (which are included below) over and over and over is proven to stimulate neuroplasticity in your brain and rewire your brain’s ability to feel.

Try them out for 2 weeks and watch how your senses improve. It may happen quickly or slowly depending on your stroke recovery timeline.

Either way, rest assured that sensory reeducation exercise are exactly what you need to regain feeling after a stroke!

Sensory Reeducation Exercises to Try at Home

Below you will find a list of exercises that you can do to help restore your brain’s ability to interpret your senses.

All of the exercises involve your sense of touch. Each time you touch something, you send sensory stimulation to your brain and encourage your brain to rewire itself.

Try to repeat each exercise at least 10 times and practice for about 10-15 minutes a day. Remember, repetition and consistency are the most important things for a speedy recovery!

Now, let’s get into the exercises.

1. Tabletop Touch Therapy

Gather together objects with different textures and place them onto a table in front of you. Then, without looking at the objects, pick them up and feel them. Try to distinguish the difference between textures.

Some examples of objects to grab are soft scarves, rough sandpaper, fluffy cotton balls, rough Velcro, and cool silverware.

2. Texture Hunting

Fill a bowl with uncooked rice and bury different textured objects in it, like marbles, coins, Velcro strips, cotton balls, etc.

Then, reach your hand into the bowl and try to find the objects without looking.

3. Texture Handling

Have someone place different objects in your hand with your eyes open. Sense how these objects feel.

Once you’ve gone through all the objects and observed how they feel, perform the exercise again with your eyes closed.

Put all your focus into feeling each object to emphasize that connection in your mind. Note any difference between how the objects feel with your eyes open or closed.

4. Temperature Differentiation

This exercise is particularly beneficial to stroke survivors who have trouble feeling heat or cold.

Soak a cloth in cold water and soak another cloth in hot (but not scalding) water. Then, have someone place the cold cloth on your arm. Try to sense what that feels like.

After 30 seconds, have them switch the cold cloth with the warm cloth. Try to sense the difference in temperature.

Then, close your eyes. Have your assistant place one cloth on your arm and try to determine if you’re feeling heat or cold.

Repeat this exercise back and forth alternating from hot to cold.

If you don’t have an assistant, you can perform this exercise yourself using your unaffected side to place the cloths on your arm.

5. Sensory Locating

Close your eyes and have a caregiver place her hand somewhere on your arm. Then, point to the area that you think she touched.

If you don’t point to the correct area, have your caregiver move your hand. Then, open your eyes to visually absorb the information.

Feedback like this helps retrain your brain. It’s like telling your brain, “I was not touched here, I was touched there.”

Repeat this exercise at least 10 times, preferably more!

Once you master this exercise, switch it up by having your assistant touch you with different textured objects, like a Q-tip or metal spoon.

Always keep your eyes closed during the exercise, and if you perform the exercise incorrectly, open your eyes once your caregiver moves your finger to absorb the feedback.

The Return of Sensation After Stroke

The idea of learning to feel again might seem weird, but hopefully you’re empowered by the idea that you can relearn anything that you want.

Neuroplasticity is not limited to movement. It can be applied to any area that you want to grow – including learning how to feel again.

If you have any experience with sensory reeducation that you’d like to share, please leave us a comment below!