Stroke recovery treatment occurs in two critical phases. First, doctors perform emergency care in the hospital to stop the stroke. Then, rehabilitation is started to address the secondary effects.
There are many stroke recovery treatment options available during rehabilitation. Since every stroke is different, everyone will respond best to different treatments. Therefore, working with your rehab team to create a comprehensive recovery plan that works for you is important.
Below, you will find a list of the most common and effective stroke recovery treatment options. We also added a tip on what you might want to avoid at the end. Let’s dive in.
How a Stroke Is Treated
Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the supply of blood to the brain is obstructed by either a clogged artery (ischemic stroke) or burst artery (hemorrhagic stroke).
When parts of the brain are deprived of oxygen-rich blood, the brain cells in that area begin to die. This damage is what creates secondary effects in one’s ability to produce movement or speech.
The faster stroke treatment is administered, the faster normal blood flow is restored. This helps minimize brain damage and, as a result, minimize the secondary effects of stroke, too.
Here are the types of stroke treatment options:
Surgery (Hemicraniectomy) for Hemorrhagic Stroke
A hemorrhagic stroke is caused when an artery in the brain bursts, causing blood to leak into the area surrounding area the brain.
While non-surgical options for hemorrhagic stroke can be explored, surgery is often recommended to treat hemorrhagic stroke, especially in life-threatening scenarios.
A well-known type of surgery used to treat hemorrhagic stroke is called a hemicraniectomy, where part of the skull is removed to relieve pressure from swelling in the brain. After the swelling has resolved, the piece of the skull that was removed is often put back into place.
Clot-Dissolving Drugs for Ischemic Stroke
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot clogs an artery in the brain.
The best way to treat an ischemic stroke is with tPA or aspirin – two clot-dissolving drugs.
There’s only a short time frame in which tPA can be administered, but it’s very effective.
When a minor stroke or TIA is happening, sometimes aspirin can help since it thins the blood.
However, do NOT self-diagnose and give someone aspirin when they look like they’re having a stroke – it could potentially kill them.
You don’t know if they’re having an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, and taking aspirin during a hemorrhagic stroke could be fatal.
Surgery (Mechanical Embolectomy) for Ischemic Stroke
When clot-dissolving drugs are not feasible stroke treatment options, doctors will consider surgery.
A surgery used to treat ischemic stroke is called a mechanical embolectomy, where a small mechanical device is used to remove the clot directly from the artery.
Stroke Recovery Treatments During Rehabilitation
Once life-saving care for stroke has been administered and the patient is stabilized, rehabilitation can begin as soon as possible.
But where will the stroke recovery process take you?
After discharge from the hospital, you will either go to a rehabilitation facility or you will be sent to recover at home.
For those who go to a rehabilitation facility, we’re about to discuss the best stroke recovery treatment options they might provide. Then we will discuss stroke recovery at home.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
At a rehabilitation facility, you will participate in rigorous physical and occupational therapy.
Physical therapy focuses on improving mobility in the body through stroke rehabilitation exercises.
Occupational therapy focuses on improving the patient’s ability to perform the activities of daily living, like feeding and getting dressed.
During both types of therapy, massed practice, specificity training, and functional activities are emphasized to promote healing in the brain.
Speech and Cognitive Therapy
Stroke treatment for language and cognitive dysfunction involves speech therapy, often with a speech-language pathologist (SLP).
An SLP will guide you through with various speech therapy exercises to help retrain the brain and improve language and cognitive skills. For those who experience problems with eating or drinking after stroke, SLPs can also help with feeding and oral skills.
Alternative Stroke Recovery Treatment Options
To help boost stroke recovery even further, you can try alternative treatments, like the ones below.
Be sure to consult with your doctor first to make sure that you’re not putting yourself at risk.
Acupuncture is a great alternative treatment after ischemic stroke.
There is a large amount of findings that consider acupuncture to be an excellent treatment for post stroke paralysis , but its exact mechanism of action on the body is not firmly understood.
These studies are backed up by personal stories from stroke survivors who have seen the incredible effects of acupuncture after stroke.
If you’re interested in natural, alternative ways to recover from stroke, acupuncture could be a good fit for you, as long as your doc says it’s okay.
Oxygen therapy is a method of enhancing stroke recovery that involves lying in a chamber while inhaling pure oxygen for 60-90 minutes.
Ideally, this increases the amount of oxygen in the brain, which helps promote healing.
The idea behind oxygen therapy is this:
When your brain is busy rewiring itself after stroke, it requires even more oxygen – more than the 20% it already consumes from your body.
Oxygen therapy helps supply your brain with extra oxygen, which is thought to fuel neuroplasticity.
Since this stroke treatment is new, most insurances don’t cover it, so you may want to consider other less-expensive options.
Magnetic Brain Stimulation
Magnetic brain stimulation is a cutting-edge treatment that uses electrical currents to stimulate healing and recovery deep within the brain.
The idea is to get both hemispheres of the brain working together, which is theorized to facilitate recovery after stroke.
This is a very new treatment that’s still undergoing heavy research, but it’s worth looking into if you’re desperate for a way to boost results after stroke.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy for stroke involves injecting stem cells into the body, where they travel around looking for damaged cells to restore.
The most effective treatments involve injecting the stem cells directly into the brain, but this obviously comes with much higher risks.
Also, because this treatment is very new, most insurances don’t cover it, and we’ve heard that it’s expensive (a few thousand dollars).
At-Home Stroke Recovery Treatment Options
Whether you are recovering at home or receiving outpatient therapy, your recovery does not end here.
In order to continue improving, you need a solid home therapy regimen to go along with it.
Here’s our best recommendations for stroke treatment at home:
Stroke Exercise Programs
Everyone needs to participate in physical therapy for stroke recovery at home.
The simplest way to achieve this is by doing your stroke recovery exercises! Ideally, you should do them every day.
For the most benefit, you should do them twice a day — while making sure to rest or take days off when necessary.
This treatment uses a tabletop mirror to ‘trick’ your brain into thinking that you’re moving your affected hand while you perform stroke exercises with your non-affected hand.
Surprisingly, this helps your brain rewire itself and introduce movement into paralyzed hands.
A Stroke Recovery Treatment to Avoid
Unless otherwise instructed by your therapist, the worst way to treat stroke is with compensation techniques.
Compensation techniques are shortcuts that save you time, like using your non-affected hand to do everything.
While this helps you get things done faster, it can hinder recovery when you get too comfortable with them.
To understand why, let’s look at the difference between compensation vs recovery:
Compensation involves “performing an old movement in a new manner.”
Recovery, on the other hand, involves “restoring the ability to perform a movement in the same manner as it was performed before injury.”
For example, if a right-handed person lost mobility in their right hand, then a compensation technique would involve eating with the left hand.
Recovery, on the other hand, would involve working really hard to eat with the right hand like before stroke.
By working hard to outgrow compensation techniques, you can maximize your potential to reach a full recovery from stroke.
Wrap Up: The Best Stroke Treatment
As you seek treatment for stroke, be sure to explore all your options.
Also ensure that you’re focusing on massed practice, because repetition is how the brain heals after stroke.
Work hard, be patient, and you will achieve your best recovery from stroke.