Stroke recovery 101: Regaining function as quickly as possible

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After a stroke, you might experience paralysis, numbness, depression and problems with memory, speech, understanding and attention.

But it is possible to recover with hard work and dedication.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability. But only 10% of survivors fully recover.

So, how can you maximize your recovery? Start as soon as possible. Rehabilitation can start 24 to 48 hours after a stroke.

Dr. S. Tom Carmichael says to focus on the hard parts.

"If you're having trouble with reach and grasp of the arm, the key is to not let that dangle and open the peanut butter jar just with your good hand but to actively engage and try to use your hand in meaningful tasks," he said.

A strict physical and occupational therapy schedule should show results in the first four months, and many patients continue therapy up to two years after their stroke.

But be careful; there are things that can slow recovery.

"There are a certain few things that may make things worse, and that's if you strengthen some of the muscles that are preserved," Carmichael said. "I've had patients who will do a lot of arm curls, and that's actually the wrong thing to strengthen, because there's a natural mismatch."

Stroke recovery apps like Medisafe, Constant Therapy and Elevate help with workouts, reminders, speech and cognitive therapy.

Researchers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine have developed a novel stroke therapy that works better than the standard of care when tested in mice and dogs. Phase 1 clinical trials are the next step.

RESEARCH SUMMARY
STROKE RECOVERY 101 REPORT #2678

BACKGROUND: A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when something blocks blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of serious disability for adults. About 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year. According to the National Stroke Association, 10 percent of people who have a stroke recover almost completely, with 25 percent recovering with minor impairments. Another 40 percent experience moderate to severe impairments that require special care. This means that there is a type of disability that affects your daily function, whether at work or in your personal life. And 10 percent require long-term care in a nursing home or other facility. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/about.htm and https://www.healthline.com/health/stroke/recovery#outlook)

STROKE REHABILITATION: The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to help a patient relearn skills lost when the stroke affected part of the brain. Stroke rehab can help a patient regain independence and improve quality of life. The severity of stroke complications and each person's ability to recover vary widely. Researchers have found that people who participate in a focused stroke rehabilitation program perform better than most people who don't have stroke rehabilitation. It's common for stroke rehab to start as soon as 24 to 48 hours after the stroke, while you're in the hospital. Successful stroke rehabilitation depends on physical factors, including the severity of the stroke in terms of both cognitive and physical effects; emotional factors, such as your motivation and mood, and your ability to stick with rehabilitation activities outside of therapy sessions; social factors, such as the support of friends and family; and therapeutic factors, including an early start to your rehabilitation and the skill of your stroke rehabilitation team. (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stroke/in-depth/stroke-rehabilitation/art-20045172)

FOUR FUTURE TRENDS IN STROKE RECOVERY: Steven A. Kautz, professor at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and Medical University of South Carolina College of Health Professions, gives a glimpse into future trends for stroke recovery research. One trend is called multidisciplinary team science. These teams include both clinical and basic scientists; experts in rehabilitation, neuromodulation, statistics, bioinformatics, neuroimaging and neuroscience. In addition, scientists from the clinical professions like stroke neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, neuropsychologists and psychiatrists, among others. Neuromodulation is a second trend of the future. It is a potential methodology to modify aberrant circuits and improve, or even restore, some of the post-stroke deficits negatively impacting the quality of life. A third trend is a better understanding of the experience-dependent nature of neural plasticity and its translation into clinically effective interventions. Finally, a fourth trend for stroke recovery is comprehensive multidisciplinary databases enabled by data sharing between studies and between centers. These could offer an incredible promise for tackling the difficult problem of determining which treatment or treatments are needed for each stroke survivor. These emerging trends leave researchers well-positioned for breakthroughs that can improve the quality of life for stroke survivors. (Source: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/stroke-recovery-research/56316/)