Exercise for stroke patients is the foundation of the healing and recovery process, whether the arm can move or requires assistance to move.
You’re about to learn the difference between active and passive exercise and why it helps paralysis recovery after stroke. Then, you’ll discover some examples of exercises to do.
If you feel unsure about your chances of recovery from post-stroke paralysis, these exercises will empower you to actively do something for your recovery as well as taking charge of your body.
Active vs Passive Rehab Exercise
Active rehab exercise involves doing a movement on your own.
Passive exercise involves assisting your affected limbs through a movement. This is where stroke patients with paralysis should start.
Passive exercise helps with paralysis recovery because it involves using your non-affected side to move your paralyzed muscles; and any type of movement sends signals to the brain.
Sometimes passive exercise will require the help of a caregiver, therapist, or family member to move the affected arm or leg though pain-free range of motion.
Passive Exercise Helps Post-Stroke Paralysis
Passive rehab exercise helps paralysis recovery because it activates neuroplasticity, the mechanism that your brain uses to rewire itself after injury.
Although passive exercise may not feel like you’re “doing it yourself,” the stimulation of sensation and movement activates neuroplasticity and sends signals to the brain.
When stroke damages part of your brain, neuroplasticity allows other parts of the brain to create a new pathway. Neuroplasticity is how you regain movement after stroke.
You can activate neuroplasticity through repetition and constant awareness of your affected side. You send signals to the brain every time you look at your arm, touch it, clasp your hands together, or move your arm.
If you want to regain movement after post-stroke paralysis, then you need to practice passive stroke exercises repetitively on a daily basis.
In the beginning, start with passive exercise. As you slowly regain small amounts of movement, you can gradually progress to active exercises.
Progress can be very slow. However, once patients see twitches or tiny movements start to come back, it will motivate them to continue with their passive exercise.
Exercise for Stroke Patients with Paralysis
Passive exercises can be adapted from any active exercises by assisting your affected muscles through the movements.
Here’s another exercise for stroke patients with paralysis. It’s called “Punching Movement” and it targets the entire arm:
To perform this exercise, slide your arm across the table to ‘punch’ the water bottle, and then pull your arm back, using your other arm to assist with the movement. It can also become an active exercise by initiating the whole movement with your affected arm.
These exercises help restore movement after post stroke paralysis by reconnecting your mind to your muscles.
Mental practice involves imagining (or visualizing) yourself doing the movements you want to get better at. This helps activate neuroplasticity just as physical practice does.
Stroke patients who struggle with paralysis can benefit from combining mental practice with passive exercises since the mind and body are connected and both require healing.
For example, if you want to regain movement in your arm, spend time visualizing yourself doing the Punching Movement above. Then, after your visualization, practice the movement in real life.
Combining mental practice with physical practice leads to even better results.
Paralysis Recovery After Stroke
Exercise is the essence of paralysis recovery after stroke. Practicing passive rehab exercises on a daily basis helps provide the brain with the stimulation it needs to heal.
The more consistent you are with daily exercise, the better your chances of recovery will be. It’s important to be patient with your results, and celebrate small signs of recovery.
For instance, if you begin to see twitches in your affected arm or hand, that’s a sign that movement is returning. Keep up the hard work, and you will persevere on the road to recovery.