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Magnetic Therapy for Stroke Patients: What Does the Science Say?

digital brain floating over woman's hands in front of sunset, representing magnetic therapy for stroke patients

Magnetic therapy for stroke patients can help improve stroke paralysis, according to new research. It does this by triggering the brain’s natural healing mechanism: neuroplasticity.

To help you decide whether this experimental treatment is right for you, this article will explain the benefits of magnetic therapy and how it may help with stroke recovery.

What is Magnetic Therapy?   

Magnetic therapy, also known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive treatment in which doctors place magnetic coils on the patients scalp. From these coils, short electromagnetic pulses are delivered to specific brain areas.

While to the patient these pulses cause an imperceptible tapping sensation, they actually reach deep into the brain to trigger electrical currents and stimulate neurons.

Magnetic therapy has been approved by the FDA to treat obsessive compulsive disorder and is often used to treat depression.

Recently, however, scientists have found success using it to treat some common side effects of stroke. Specifically, researchers have found that it can improve arm movement and walking speed.

These benefits can offer greater independence for stroke patients, who may struggle with the activities of daily living, such as getting dressed or walking to the bathroom.

We will discuss these benefits further below. Before we get there, it helps to understand how magnetic therapy for stroke patients works.

How Magnetic Therapy for Stroke Works

doctor applying magnetic therapy to stroke patient

When the neurons in the brain become stimulated, they trigger the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity allows the brain to rewire itself and assign lost functions to different, undamaged areas.

Therefore, by stimulating specific brain regions, magnetic therapy can potentially offer multiple benefits to stroke patients. However, magnetic stimulation does not only target the injured side of the brain. It also targets the non-injured side.

The reason behind this has to do with how the brain controls movement. Each side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body. This explains why a right-side stroke affects the left side of the body and vice versa.

However, all movement requires cooperation from both sides of the brain. For example, to move your left hand, the right side of the brain must send an excitatory signal, and the left must send an inhibitory one. This ensures that movement remains balanced.

Unfortunately, after a stroke, the brain loses this balance and can no longer send the correct signals. By stimulating both sides of the brain, magnetic therapy restores that balance.

Benefits of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

While repetitive transcranial stimulation can treat many stroke symptoms, it seems to have the most effective results on movement problems. For example, research shows that magnetic therapy helps stroke survivors improve their gait and walk independently again.

In another study, researchers applied magnetic stimulation to stroke patients with severe arm paralysis. During the experiment, the researchers asked the patients to try to reach for an object when they saw the “Go” signal. When the patients tried to move, the doctors would apply magnetic stimulation to the dorsal premotor cortex.

The results showed that the therapy had a profound effect on those with severe motor impairments.

Magnetic therapy can also treat some cognitive effects of stroke. Most notably, only ten minutes of magnetic stimulation resulted in significant improvements in naming skills in non-fluent aphasia patients.

As you can see, magnetic therapy can offer many important benefits to stroke patients, and it’s non-invasive nature makes it especially ideal. With that said, it is not a cure for stroke, and it will require work on your end to extract the most benefits.

How to Get the Most from Magnetic Stimulation

Although magnetic brain stimulation for stroke patients can improve movement after stroke, your brain still needs extra help to recover. Dr. Marcie Bockbrader, assistant professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ohio State, put it like this:

“What we’re doing is allowing the brain to be ready and more receptive for therapies,” said Bockbrader. “It’s not a technology that’s limited to just motor recovery after stroke, it seems to be something that has a potential to affect many of the brain circuits that are injured in stroke.”

Therefore, magnetic stimulation essentially primes the brain for further therapy. But you still must pair it with stroke rehab exercises to see the best results.

Since the brain builds skills through repetition, the most effective therapy incorporates heavy repetition. Home exercise devices like Flint Rehab’s FitMi are designed specifically for that purpose.

How to Access Magnetic Therapy for Stroke

Doctor listening to stroke patient's concern

If you want to participate in magnetic therapy for stroke recovery, try searching for clinical trials in your area. Insurance does not typically cover magnetic stimulation, so this can be a more affordable option.

You can also search online to see if any local clinics or hospitals offer rTMS for stroke recovery. However, you should exercise caution when choosing a program.

Because rTMS for stroke is still experimental, most magnetic stimulation treatments available are usually for depression. Make sure that you search specifically for stroke recovery, and make sure the clinic also encourage physical therapy in tandem. This will help assure that you get the most benefits possible.

Facts About Magnetic Stimulation

Magnetic therapy can be an excellent option for stroke patients, especially for those who have hit a plateau in their recovery. The magnetic stimulation can potentially give your brain a significant boost in plasticity, allowing you to finally make more progress.

However, as with all stroke treatments, you must be willing to work for the gains. While magnetic therapy can be a helpful tool, you will not regain function unless you continue with your therapy.

We hope this article helps you better understand the benefits of magnetic therapy for stroke patients. Good luck!

Featured Image: ©iStock/Natali_Mis

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See how Susan is recovering from post-stroke paralysis

“I had a stroke five years ago causing paralysis on my left side which remains today.

I recently began using FitMi.

At first it was difficult for me to be successful with a few of the exercises but the more I use it, the better my scores become.

I have recently had some movement in my left arm that I did not have before.

I don’t know if I can directly relate this to the use of the FitMi but I am not having occupational therapy so I conclude that it must be benefiting me.

The therapy modality motivates me to use it daily and challenges me to compete against my earlier scores.

I heartily recommend it!-Susan, stroke survivor

FitMi is our best-selling home therapy tool because it helps patients of all ability levels.

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