No products in the cart.

Apraxia After Brain Damage: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

doctor showing patient info about apraxia after brain damage on her tablet

Apraxia is a possible secondary effect of brain damage that causes difficulty with executing coordinated muscle movements.

Apraxia can manifest in a number of different ways, depending on where the brain damage occurred. The most common type of apraxia is buccofacial or orofacial apraxia, which affects the orofacial muscles causing difficulty with mouth/facial movements such as winking, coughing, etc. This type can also include difficulties with speech (apraxia of speech).

This article will explain the different causes and types of apraxia after brain injury, plus some helpful treatments.

Causes of Apraxia After Brain Damage

Apraxia is a neurological disorder that causes problems with motor planning. In other words, it makes it difficult for a person to perform complex tasks that require coordination of diverse muscle groups, despite having the muscular ability to do so.

It differs from other movement disorders in that the person can understand what movements they must make, they just cannot execute them.

The exact cause of apraxia is debated. However, it is thought that one very likely cause is a defect in the brain pathways that contain memories of learned patterns of movement. It may also be caused by damage to the parts of the brain responsible for muscle movement and coordination, particularly the cerebellum and the posterior parietal cortex.

If these brain regions become damaged, muscle coordination may be difficult, if not impossible.

Types of Apraxia Following Brain Damage

There are several different types of apraxia that can develop after brain injury, and these types can occur together or separately. The type of apraxia that develops depends on which part of the brain sustains damage. For example, damage to the basal ganglia will cause a different type of apraxia than damage to the primary motor cortex would.

Some of the most common types of apraxia include:

  • Limb-kinetic Apraxia: This type refers to the inability to make fine, precise movements with your arms or legs.
  • Ideomotor Apraxia: This causes difficulties in performing the proper movements in response to a verbal command.
  • Ideational Apraxia: The inability to coordinate activities with multiple, sequential parts such as dressing, eating, bathing, and other activities of daily living.
  • Verbal Apraxia: Also known as apraxia of speech, this type causes difficulties with coordinating facial movements to form words.
  • Oculomotor Apraxia. Finally, apraxia can also affect the eye muscles themselves, making it difficult to move the eyes correctly.

Fortunately, all of these types of apraxia can typically improve to some degree with physical, speech and/or occupational therapy.

Symptoms of Apraxia

Symptoms of apraxia will look different based on which type of apraxia the person has. For example, a person with limb-kinetic apraxia may have difficulty with walking or may struggle to pick up objects with their arms.

For apraxia of speech in particular, symptoms can include:

  • Exaggerated movements of the lips and tongue (called groping)
  • Slowed speech
  • Distortion of vowel sounds
  • Difficulty stringing syllables together
  • Incorrect inflections
  • Omitting consonants at the beginning and end of words

Apraxia of speech is often accompanied by aphasia, a language disorder. However, apraxia itself does not cause problems with speech comprehension or production.

Treating Apraxia of Speech After Brain Damage

Apraxia is a result of poor communication between the brain and muscles. Because of this damage, the signals that the brain normally sends to coordinate movement does not reach the correct muscles.

Treatment for apraxia of speech revolves around restoring this communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Fortunately, this can be done by activating neuroplasticity, which is your brain’s natural ability to rewire itself.

Neuroplasticity is experience-dependent, which means it occurs based on whatever you experience on a regular, consistent basis. When you practice a task, even if you can’t do it perfectly, your brain forms new neural pathways in response.

After enough experience is achieved, the new pathways become more established and the connection to your muscles may return. This will allow you to improve your coordination. 

This technique will work with all types of apraxia. Since, however, apraxia of speech is very common, we will show you a few speech therapy exercises that you can do at home.

Exercises for Apraxia of Speech

The best way to overcome apraxia of speech is to work with an expert called a Speech Language Pathologist. These experts are specifically trained to improve disorders related to speech/language.

In between therapy sessions with your SLP, it’s a good idea to practice speech therapy exercises on your own at home.

Here are some examples of exercises for apraxia of speech:

Lip articulation exercises for apraxia of speech

therapist teaching patient how to do lip articulation to treat apraxia after brain damage

This first set of exercises will improve your lip control. Some of the best exercises for this include:

  • Make the sound “ooo” while forming your lips into an O shape. Then make the sound “eee” while attempting to coordinate your lips into a smile. Finally, combine the two sounds and say “ooo-eee.”
  • Next try to make a popping sound with your lips by making the sound “puh.”
  • Another great activity for apraxia patients is sipping water through a straw. This requires coordination between your lips, cheeks, and tongue.

Tongue articulation exercises for apraxia

These exercises will help you regain better control of your tongue. A few activities that a speech therapist might suggest include:  

  • Place the tip of your tongue right behind your upper front teeth. Hold it there as long as you can.
  • Without moving your jaw, say “la la la la” by moving just the tip of your tongue from the roof of your mouth.
  • Form an O shape with your lips. Then, place your tongue on the left corner of your lip and trace it all the way around your lips. When you complete the circle five times, switch to the other direction.

Coordination exercises for apraxia

After you have practiced articulation exercises, you can combine your skills together and practice coordination. Here are some coordination exercises that you can use:

  • The words “buttercup” and “rocket ship” require particularly coordinated movements. Try saying “buttercup” 5 times followed by “rocket ship” 5 times.
  • Next, try saying “puh, tuh, kuh” three times. You can start slow, but try to increase your speed gradually.

These exercises will get you started on your way to overcoming apraxia of speech.

Understanding Apraxia After Brain Damage

Apraxia is a motor disorder that makes it difficult to perform purposeful movements, such as speech. It occurs after damage to parts of the brain in charge of motor control.

By engaging neuroplasticity through exercise, however, it may be possible to treat apraxia and regain full control of your muscles.

Keep it going: Do you know these 15 essential TBI recovery tips?

If you like our content, you’ll love our ebook and newsletters! Get instant access to our TBI recovery tips ebook with 20 pages of helpful advice by signing up below.

You’ll also receive our emails that share survivor stories and more useful TBI recovery tips, which you can opt out of at any time. (We know you’ll love them, too.)

We will never sell your email address, and we never spam. That we promise.

More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Download Free TBI Recovery Tips!

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools

You're on a Roll: Read More Popular Articles on TBI Recovery

Do you want to sharpen your cognitive skills after a TBI?

Time with a speech therapist is extremely valuable during recovery, especially if you struggle with communication, critical thinking, or memory after brain injury. Insurance typically covers speech therapy for a fixed amount of time. But once it’s over, recovery is in your hands.

That’s why two speech therapists came together to create the CT Speech & Cognitive therapy app. It contains over 100,000 cognitive exercises that are all available right from your phone or tablet. 

This app is the perfect fit if you want to improve your speaking, memory, or general mental sharpness. Best of all, it’s affordable at just $29.99/month.

Click here to learn more about the CT app »

See what Miriam said about the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy app:

“For the past 6 months, my son has used the app about three times a week. The app is like a virtual therapist, it’s very easy to use, and it gives him immediate feedback.

He now understands things faster, can make decisions with less hesitation, has improved recognition of words, and his confidence is higher. I also find it easy to get in touch with customer service; they pleasantly help out. The whole experience has been great.”

— Miriam

It’s like having a virtual speech therapist available anytime you want

With the CT App, you can get the guidance you need right from your phone or tablet. You can use it on your own or in between sessions with your speech therapist.

Whether you struggle with aphasia, memory loss, or critical thinking, the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App can help.

“The CT app has helped me gather my confidence by building on and reinforcing old forgotten skills. It helps to see my percentages increase, and work harder when they decrease. It’s very self-motivating.” -Kathryn

We are confident that this app will help improve your speech and cognitive function after brain injury. Like our recovery tools, the CT App is also covered by our 30-day money-back guarantee.

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Do you know these 15 TBI recovery tips?

Get a free copy of our ebook 15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know. Click here to get instant access.