What are the best methods to approach physical therapy for stroke patients at home? You’re about to find out.
After discharge from outpatient therapy, it’s essential for stroke patients to continue a strong recovery program at home. Here are the best tips to maximize your potential.
Best Therapy Methods for Stroke Patients Living at Home
First, let’s discuss the top 5 stroke recovery treatment options you can do at home. These methods focus specifically on mobility.
1. Daily Stroke Rehabilitation Exercises
Unlike traditional exercise, which focuses on strengthening your muscles, stroke recovery exercise strengthens your brain.
That’s because rehabilitation exercise focuses on high repetition to activate neuroplasticity. This helps rewire the brain and improve your control over movement.
Repetition of therapeutic exercise is the single best way to continue to improving movement after stroke.
2. Mirror Therapy for Hand Recovery
Mirror therapy is a great method to improve hand function, especially for those with hand paralysis or extremely limited hand movement.
This method of physical therapy for stroke patients involves using a tabletop mirror to cover your affected arm with the reflection of your good arm. Then, you perform tabletop hand therapy exercises while looking at the reflection.
Although you logically know that you’re only moving one hand, your brain thinks that you’re moving both hands. This helps activate neuroplasticity and improve your fine motor skills.
3. CIMT for Arm or Leg Paralysis
Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) is a type of physical therapy that’s particularly helpful for stroke patients with arm paralysis or even leg paralysis.
It works by restricting movement of your “good” arm while forcing use of your affected arm. CIMT is simple but very challenging. However, this rehab method has a large pool of clinical evidence supporting it, so it could be worth trying.
For instance, in one study, patients recovering from chronic stroke experienced better recovery when using CIMT in conjunction with other therapies.
It often works best to get started with the help of your physical therapist, and then continue at home.
4. Mental Practice to Improve Paralysis
Mental practice involves mentally rehearsing something before you actually do it. Professional athletes are known to use mental practice to improve at their sport, and stroke patients can also benefit.
Try mentally practicing your rehab exercises for 5 minutes before you actually practice them in real life.
Studies have shown that visualizing yourself moving helps activate neuroplasticity the same way that actually moving does!
Mental practice is especially helpful for patients that struggle with paralysis and cannot move without assistance yet. It provides a way to help the brain rewire itself without requiring movement.
5. Home Rehabilitation Tools
Home therapy tools can help you see results faster during stroke rehab at home – especially if they motivate you to complete a high number of repetitions.
Ask your therapist if (s)he recommends any home exercise equipment. Physical and occupational therapists highly recommend FitMi home therapy for stroke patients doing PT at home.
Even Bob & Brad, the “most famous physical therapists on the internet” gave FitMi their stamp of approval.
Tips to Boost Physical Therapy for Stroke Patients at Home
Now that you know what the best physical therapy treatments are, it’s time to focus on work ethic. Because knowing the best steps is much different than taking them.
Here are 10 tips to implement your best physical therapy regimen at home:
6. Harness the Relentless Force of Kaizen
Kaizen is the Japanese practice of continuous improvement through small, consistent steps. Sound too simple to work? The simplicity is actually the hardest part.
Kaizen involves patience and persistence, two characteristics that can be difficult to conjure during rehab. But as difficult as it might be, the truth is that physical therapy works just like kaizen.
You can’t achieve your results all at once. The brain can only do so much in a single day.
Instead, the best thing you can do to achieve success is take it one step at a time. This slow yet steady pace is exactly what will lead you to victory.
7. Listen to Your Physical Therapist
A physical therapist once offered some sage advice that’s worth repeating:
“Ditch the ‘Let’s see if this might work’ mantra and start telling yourself, ‘I will do this therapy until it works!’ No if’s allowed.”
Success starts with a positive attitude. If you approach your therapy from a skeptical perspective, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure.
Instead, approach each physical therapy method – new and old – with positivity and open-mindedness. It really has an effect on your psychology which has an even bigger effect on the results you see.
8. Turn the Background Noise OFF to Turn Your Brain ON
Our home can be distracting. Sometimes we don’t even notice the distractions because we once tuned them out — but your brain recognizes it.
When attention is divided between physical therapy and the radio playing in the background, you’re not reaping the full benefits of PT.
To make sure that you’re getting the most “bang for your buck,” try to schedule your physical therapy exercises when your environment will be the quietest. Turn off the television and tell family members not to disturb you until you’re done.
Your brain is hard at work rewiring itself, so let it focus on that – and only that. Unnecessary distractions are not welcome in your at-home rehabilitation space.
9. Don’t Let the Plateau Stop You
Every stroke is different so everyone will recover at a different pace. However, this is a well-documented phenomenon called the stroke recovery plateau.
With this pattern, most stroke patients experience a slow-down in their results at the 3-month mark. Once a patient hits the plateau, therapists often discharge them to continue recovery at home. Some patients may continue outpatient therapy once or twice a week, but other than those visits, recovery is in your hands.
Therefore, it’s important to keep a strong work ethic during this time. Don’t let the 3-month plateau deter you. Everyone experiences this slow-down, and your brain can continue to recover as long as you keep exercising consistently.
10. Don’t Let Paralysis Stop You, Either
Post-stroke paralysis can be discouraging because it’s a chronic condition. However, there are plenty of stories from stroke survivors who overcame post-stroke paralysis even when the doctors said it was impossible.
Often times, doctors must err on the side of caution when providing your stroke recovery prognosis. Just because one person said it’s impossible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Action is what leads to results. If you want to push the envelope, try reading up on available treatments for stroke paralysis and try everything you can until you find something that works.
Some stroke survivors can recover some movement at home through a daily regimen of mental practice and passive paralysis exercises.
You won’t know how far you can go unless you try. Never give up hope for recovery.
11. Resist the Nocebo Effect for a Better Recovery
When someone tells you that you can’t do something, you may fall under the nocebo effect, which is the opposite of the placebo effect. Instead of believing in positive outcomes, you begin to believe in negative outcomes, which unfortunately can turn those negative outcomes into reality.
Therefore, if someone tells you that you can’t achieve a full recovery from stroke, ignore them. You’re much better off believing in a full recovery than settling for someone else’s limiting beliefs. Again, you won’t know until you try.
12. Treat Spasticity the Smart Way
Spasticity is a common stroke side effect that deters many stroke survivors from pursuing physical therapy at home. Don’t let misinformation fool you.
Even though spasticity makes it tough to move your muscles, movement helps reverse spasticity. By rewiring your brain with rehab exercise, the spasticity will slowly go away.
This is why physical therapists just want you to move. As long as you’re moving, you’re helping the brain recover and preventing spasticity from getting worse. And when you most strategically with physical therapy exercises, you’ll see even better results.
13. Take 30 Extra Seconds to Boost Your Brain
You already know that mental practice helps rewire the brain. But there’s another way to use mental practice to boost recovery from stroke:
Try spending just 30 seconds each night visualizing yourself doing your mental practice and stroke exercises the following day.
This will help you follow through on your intention to exercise at home. Since action is what matters, you can set yourself up for success by making it easier to take action. You’ll see how 30 seconds a day can make a world of difference.
Why At-Home Physical Therapy Matters
We’d like to end with an important reminder before we conclude these tips on physical therapy for stroke patients at home:
Recovery from stroke never stops until the patient stops pursuing rehab. Even when patients take prolonged breaks for months or even years, they can still pick physical therapy back up and continue recovery.
You’ll be amazed at how much daily physical therapy exercises can do. Check out the reviews for FitMi home therapy to see for yourself. The home therapy tool motivates you to exercise daily, which helps users improve movement faster.
Whether it has been 10 months or 10 years, recovery is always possible when you put in the work. You will see the best results when you make it part of your daily routine at home. Good luck!