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Understanding the Tingling Sensation After Stroke: Causes & Treatment Methods

stroke patient touching side of her face to show tingling

Tingling sensations in the arms and legs are common after a stroke. This article explains why it occurs and provides recommendations to decrease the sensation.

Despite 60% of stroke patients experiencing sensory deficits, these symptoms are often overlooked and neglected since they do not severely impact one’s ability to perform daily activities.

However, if tingling sensations are persistent, it can greatly decrease quality of life for stroke patients. Understanding the causes and treatment methods for tingling sensations after a stroke is one more step in your recovery process.

Causes of Tingling Sensation After Stroke

It’s always important to work with your medical team for a formal diagnosis even if you think you know what’s happening. The right diagnosis will help you pursue the most effective treatment.

Here are the top 3 causes of tingling sensations after stroke:

First, a stroke in the parietal lobe may cause issues with numbness or tingling after stroke. The parietal lobe plays a primary role in interpreting your senses, including touch.

Second, tingling could be a sign of non-stroke-related medical complications. For example, if diabetes goes unmanaged, it can cause tingling in the hands and feet due to nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy).

And finally, sometimes tingling is actually a sign of recovery from stroke, especially if spasticity is involved.

Could Tingling Actually Be a Good Thing?

Some stroke patients report tingling and/or twitching in their affected muscles as spasticity begins to decline.

However, it’s tough to tell whether tingling indicates a problem or recovery. This dichotomy makes it critical to take the side effect seriously and work with your medical team for an accurate diagnosis.

However, we previously mentioned that sensory function goes overlooked during rehabilitation. It is important for your therapists to know that the tingling is negatively impacting your recovery and healing.

The stroke rehabilitation field has made massive gains in the last couple decades, and new modalities are discovered all the time, based on evidence-based research. Collectively, your questions could make a big difference to guide attention from healthcare professionals.

Treatment for Tingling Sensation After Stroke

Now that you understand the three main causes of tingling sensations after stroke, let’s discuss recovery.

Some stroke side effects go away on their own — a phenomenon known as “spontaneous recovery.”

However, it’s best to take action to reduce tingling sensations, even if you have hope for spontaneous recovery. Action is always better than no action.

To help reduce tingling sensations after stroke, treatment will depend upon the original cause of the issue. For instance, if tingling stems from a non-stroke-related complication like diabetes, then managing that condition will be the best approach.

However, most patients experience tingling sensations due to the neurological impact of stroke, and fortunately this has a specific solution.

How Sensory Retraining Helps Tingling After Stroke

For most patients, when tingling issues are caused by damage to the part of the brain that regulates sensation, the best treatment method is sensory retraining.

By practicing sensory retraining exercises, you can help retrain the brain to interpret your senses again. While it’s not guaranteed to make the tingling sensation go away completely, it can often greatly reduce it.

One example of sensory retraining involves “texture hunting.” During this exercise, various objects are buried in a bowl of uncooked rice. The patient reaches the affected (tingling) hand in the bowl and searches for the objects.

This sensory stimulation helps retrain the brain to interpret your senses. But you need to practice sensory retraining exercises on a consistent basis to see results; because neuroplasticity is activated by consistency and repetition.

Wrap Up: How to Overcome Tingling After Stroke

Sensory retraining exercises are the most effective treatment to decrease tingling sensation after stroke. Remember, it’s important to have a formal diagnosis from your doctor first.

If the tingling sensation is not caused by damage from stroke, there might be other factors that require medical attention. Always exercise caution when new side effects occur after a stroke and seek a formal diagnosis.

Work closely with your medical team so that you can maximize your chances of a full recovery from stroke. Also take as much action as you can on your own by practicing sensory retraining exercises on a daily basis at home. Good luck!

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