How long does it take to recover from a mild stroke? If your loved one recently had a minor stroke, you may have questions about mild stroke recovery time.
It’s important to know that every stroke is different and therefore every recovery will be different. No one can estimate minor stroke recovery time with absolute certainty.
Still, there are some patterns worth noting for mild stroke patients. Hopefully these patterns can help you understand what lies ahead on the road to recovery.
Use the links below to jump straight to any section:
- What Exactly Is a “Mild” Stroke?
- Mild Stroke vs. TIA
- How Long Does Mild Stroke Recovery Take?
- Stroke Recovery Process for Mild Stroke
- A Proactive Approach Is Necessary
- Taking Charge of Your Recovery Time
What Exactly Is a “Mild” Stroke?
To understand the severity of a stroke, it helps to know what the NIH Stroke Scale is.
The NIH Stroke Scale is an assessment tool used to assess the secondary effects of a stroke. This scale helps your medical team “score” you in a variety of areas that can be affected by a stroke, such as movement, vision, and speech.
A high score indicates a significant stroke while a low score implies a mild or moderate stroke. Specifically, a stroke is considered mild when a person scores less than or equal to 5 on the NIH Stroke Scale (out of a possible 42).
Scoring as low as 5 signifies that not many secondary effects are present. For instance, if mobility was affected, the individual is unlikely to be paralyzed. Perhaps the person can lift their affected arm but it may drift down after 10 seconds or so.
It is possible for a mild stroke patient to have significant impairments in one area, but a score as low as 5 would imply that most other areas are unaffected. For example, if speech was severely affected, then mobility and vision remain mostly unaffected for the mild stroke survivor.
Of course, these statements are all generalities. Because every stroke is different, every prognosis will be unique, even for minor strokes.
Mild Stroke vs. TIA
Sometimes the phrase ‘mild stroke’ is used to refer to a TIA, which is incorrect. A TIA is a transient ischemic attack, also known as a “mini stroke.” Unlike regular strokes, TIAs don’t leave permanent damage.
A mini stroke occurs when part of the brain experiences a temporary lack of blood flow, and then the blood flow returns on its own. Because the event is temporary, the symptoms last for less than 24 hours.
Mini strokes and regular strokes share the same symptoms, though. This makes it critical to seek emergency medical attention when someone shows the signs of a stroke.
However, it’s not always clear-cut when diagnosing the severity of a stroke. Even if symptoms resolve within 24 hours, it’s not necessarily a TIA. A brain scan can provide the full picture. If brain lesions are detected by a brain scan, it could be diagnosed as a mild stroke, whereas brain scans are usually clear after a TIA since it doesn’t leave permanent damage.
The good news is that recovery after a mild stroke is often promising. When the stroke’s impact is mild, the brain recovers much faster.
But how long does it take to heal the brain after a minor stroke?
How Long Does Mild Stroke Recovery Take?
If you had a mild stroke, your stroke recovery timeline will probably be shorter than others with more severe strokes. However, nothing is guaranteed as every stroke is different and therefore every recovery is different.
Because mild strokes do not typically cause major impairments, recovery is usually fast. Sometimes recovery from a mild stroke can occur within 3-6 months. Other times it can take longer.
There are many variables that affect the time it takes to recover. Instead of focusing on recovery time, it can help to focus on the recovery process instead.
When you focus on the steps you can take to recover, you are empowered to take action. And action is how results are made.
Stroke Recovery Process for Mild Stroke
After a stroke, you will spend some initial time at the hospital. But instead of going to an inpatient rehab facility (where patients participate in 3+ hours of therapy per day), mild stroke patients are often discharged straight home.
Generally speaking, if you are able to accomplish the activities of daily living on your own, you are likely to go straight home after the hospital. Your rehabilitation team should instruct you on how to continue rehabilitation at home before discharge.
Once you arrive home, recovery is in your hands. It’s up to you to pursue rehabilitation through various home therapy programs that address your specific needs, especially if it’s not recommended that you go to outpatient therapy.
A Proactive Approach Is Necessary
There’s a myth that mild stroke survivors don’t need to do much to recover, but that’s not true. It’s best to avoid assuming that recovery will take care of itself.
One study noted that “patients with mild stroke are assumed to achieve full recovery with little or no intervention. However, recent studies suggest that such patients may experience persistent disability and difficulty with complex activities.”
This means that a full recovery from stroke is not guaranteed, even for minor stroke survivors. However, even though it’s not guaranteed doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
The ingredient that makes recovery possible is action. Regardless of the size of your stroke, it’s important to participate in rehabilitation in order to maximize your chances of recovery.
With a rigorous therapy regimen, most mild stroke survivors can achieve a full recovery, or get very close to one.
Taking Charge of Your Recovery Time
Instead of participating in therapy at an inpatient rehab facility, most mild stroke patients are discharged home and must keep up with rehab on their own, and/or with outpatient therapy.
Even if you do go to outpatient therapy, it is imperative to participate in a rigorous at-home therapy program as well. This will help patients get the consistent practice that’s necessary to maximize results.
Some mild stroke patients stop pursuing rehab and feel like they are stuck at the level of impairment that they left off with. This doesn’t have to be true.
The brain is capable of changing throughout our entire lives. Whenever we begin to put in the work, the brain will respond. This is why recovery is possible even decades after a stroke.
Again, the essential ingredient is action. You get better at the skills that you practice regularly, no matter how long it has been since your stroke.
Mild Stroke Recovery
Overall, recovery from a mild stroke takes less time than recovery from a massive stroke. The results you see will be dependent upon how consistent you are with rehabilitation.
Because mild stroke survivors often do not go to inpatient rehab, recovery is in your hands. The good news is that, if you keep up with a rigorous home therapy program, you are likely to see a great recovery.