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Why Exercise Is the Best Hemiplegia Treatment (and How to Strategically Do It)

physical therapist working with hemiplegia patient in spacious physical therapy clinic

The best hemiplegia treatment is exercise — but how you can exercise when half the body is paralyzed?

Don’t let lack of mobility stop you, because you can adapt rehab exercises to accommodate hemiplegia. This is key to recovery.

To help you out, this article will teach you how to create an exercise regimen to treat hemiplegia. We’ll also share a success story at the end so that you can see how others have done it.

Use the links below to jump straight to any section:

Hemiplegia Treatment Starts with the Brain

Hemiplegia involves paralysis on one side of the body. Most often, it occurs after stroke or brain injury, which impacts the brain’s ability to correctly send signals to the affected muscles.

The paralyzed side is usually opposite to the side of the brain that was injured. For example, a left hemisphere stroke can result in right sided hemiplegia, because each half of the brain controls the opposite side of the body.

It’s important to recognize that the problem does not originate from your muscles, though. The root problem lies in the brain’s impaired ability to send signals to move your muscles.

Therefore, hemiplegia treatment revolves around restoring your “mind-muscle” communication. This is possible through neuroplasticity, your brain’s innate ability to heal and rewire itself.

Neuroplasticity allows healthy parts of the brain to take over areas that may have been damaged by the stroke or brain injury. This is great news for patients with hemiplegia who want to regain movement on the side that is paralyzed.

However, neuroplasticity doesn’t just happen — it needs your help to get started.

How Repetition Heals the Brain and Treats Hemiplegia

therapist helping hemiplegia patient exercise in physical therapy clinic

Neuroplasticity is activated by repetition. Your brain likes to be efficient, so it will strengthen the neural networks for tasks that you do regularly. Over time, it will take less effort to perform these tasks, and they will become “automatic” once again.

Patients with hemiplegia cannot move their affected side because the brain has lost communication with those muscles. But if you begin to move those muscles frequently, it will let your brain know that moving those muscles is important.

The more you move your affected side, the more you stimulate neuroplasticity as your brain attempts to be efficient with moving those muscles again.

Neuroplasticity takes time to occur, but with consistent practice, exercise can help reconnect mind to muscle.

But it’s not quite helpful to exercise without a goal. You need to be strategic about it, and we’ll show you what that means next.

Passive Exercise Is the Best Starting Point for Hemiplegia Treatment

The best strategy to improve hemiplegia is to start with passive exercise. This means assisting your affected limbs through the movements.

During physical therapy, your therapist can help you do this. If you are pursuing physical therapy at home, you can ask a caregiver to help or use your non-affected side to assist.

However you do it, passive exercise can help spark neuroplasticity by stimulating the brain with movement. Although you aren’t “doing it yourself,” the movement is enough to get the rewiring process started.

To help you create an exercise regimen to overcome hemiplegia, we created these free passive exercise guides:

Passive exercise is the first stepping stone of hemiplegia recovery.

Other Ways to Treat Hemiplegia

In addition to passive exercise, there are several other recovery treatments that you can try to treat hemiplegia.

Here are 5 other methods to overcome hemiplegia:

1. Electrical Stimulation

electrical stimulation unit with electrode attachments on table for hemiplegia treatment

During electrical stimulation, electrode pads are placed on the affected muscles that will conduct an electrical current to help induce movement into the muscles.

Electrical stimulation is arguably one of the best hemiplegia treatments because it helps get the muscles moving while stimulating awareness in the brain.

Studies have shown that combining electrical stimulation with rehab exercise produces better results than exercise alone.

2. Mental Practice

Mental practice involves visualizing yourself doing the movements that you want to get better at. Professional athletes are known for using mental practice to get better at their sport. Similarly, patients with hemiplegia can use mental practice along with their rehab exercises.

Try to spend 5 minutes each day visualizing yourself doing your rehab exercises. Then, try to practice those same exercises right after you’re done.

By combining mental practice with physical practice, you can help spark neuroplasticity even more.

3. Mirror Therapy

Most patients with hemiplegia suffer from paralysis in the hand even after they start to regain movement in the arm or leg. Fortunately, there are many therapies that can help with hand paralysis.

One stand-out therapy is called mirror therapy, which can help improve hand mobility even if you cannot move your hand at all. If you struggle with fine motor skills, it could be worth a try.

4. Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy

Constraint-induced movement therapy is an aggressive form of rehabilitation for hemiplegia. It involves restraining the unaffected limb to encourage use of the affected limb.

While this is an effective method for hemiplegia treatment, it can also be frustrating for the patient. It’s best to try it with the help of a trained therapist who can help coach you through it.

5. FitMi Home Therapy

fitmi helps treat hemiplegia

Another great hemiplegia treatment is Flint Rehab’s FitMi home therapy system. Even if you have no movement in your affected side, this interactive recovery tool can help encourage you to exercise.

FitMi is another stand-out hemiplegia treatment because it encourages patients to accomplish hundreds of repetitions per session, which aggressively activates neuroplasticity.

Many patients with hemiplegia have regained mobility by using FitMi on a daily basis. Here’s one success story that illustrates how it works.

Success Story: Overcoming Hemiplegia with Passive Exercise

hemiplegia patient using FitMi home therapy device to recover at home

Ron, stroke survivor, using FitMi home therapy

“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!!!” 

Ron’s story helps illustrate how passive exercise and high repetition are the keys to overcoming hemiplegia.

FitMi helps you accomplish these goals by keeping you engaged with an interactive tool.

If you want to learn more about FitMi, click here »

The Best Hemiplegia Treatments

Overall, the best hemiplegia treatments involve repetitive, passive rehab exercise. Repetitively moving your affected muscles sends signals to your brain and sparks neuroplasticity.

You can also use electrical stimulation, mental practice, and tools like FitMi home therapy to boost neuroplasticity. As your brain rewires itself, you will slowly see movement return to your paralyzed muscles.

If you stay consistent, you can slowly regain mobility and overcome hemiplegia. Good luck!

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

You’re Really on a Roll! See how Jerry is regaining movement with FitMi home therapy

My husband is getting better and better!

“My name is Monica Davis but the person who is using the FitMi is my husband, Jerry. I first came across FitMi on Facebook. I pondered it for nearly a year. In that time, he had PT, OT and Speech therapy, as well as vision therapy.

I got a little more serious about ordering the FitMi when that all ended 7 months after his stroke. I wish I hadn’t waited to order it. He enjoys it and it is quite a workout!

He loves it when he levels up and gets WOO HOOs! It is a wonderful product! His stroke has affected his left side. Quick medical attention, therapy and FitMi have helped him tremendously!”

Monica & Jerry’s FitMi review

What are these “WOO HOOs” about?

FitMi is like your own personal therapist encouraging you to accomplish the high repetition of exercise needed to improve.

When you beat your high score or unlock a new exercise, FitMi provides a little “woo hoo!” as auditory feedback. It’s oddly satisfying and helps motivate you to keep up the great work.

In Jerry’s photo below, you can see him with the FitMi pucks below his feet for one of the leg exercises:

FitMi is beloved by survivors and used in America’s top rehab clinics

Many therapists recommend using FitMi at home between outpatient therapy visits and they are amazed by how much faster patients improve when using it.

It’s no surprise why over 14,000 OTs voted for FitMi as “Best of Show” at the annual AOTA conference; and why the #1 rehabilitation hospital in America, Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, uses FitMi with their patients.

This award-winning home therapy device is the perfect way to continue recovery from home. Read more stories and reviews by clicking the button below: