Seniors Recovering From Stroke: Exercises to Get You MovingOsmondMarketing
Having a stroke is a life-altering event. It is so severe that it’s become one of the leading causes of neurological disorder and death today. To get a better idea of the toll it takes: in the United States alone, one person has a stroke every 40 seconds, resulting in approximately 795,000 strokes every year. In relation to fatalities, stroke causes one in every 20 deaths, an average of 129,000 deaths each year.
Though a serious problem in the U.S., deaths following strokes have been decreasing . In the past 10 years, the number of deaths caused by stroke has lowered 21 percent, taking the total death rate due to it down by a whopping 35 percent. While this is a huge improvement, stroke still remains the leading cause of both preventable and long-term disability. According to one study, geriatric patients (55 and older) are most affected, with a lifetime risk factor of every one in five women and one in six men.
Depending on the severity of the stroke, patients may have to cope with damage for the remainder of their lives. As few as 10 percent of stroke patients are able to make a complete, or nearly complete, recovery. A quarter of patients recover with only minor impairments, while many (40 percent) are left with moderate to severe disabilities requiring specialized care. Up to 10 percent require long-term, in-patient care.
It is crucial to develop effective approaches to boost quality of life and the performance of daily activities in recovering stroke patients, who often live sedentary lifestyles. Regular exercise following a stroke drives toward this goal by improving motor skills and walking ability, as well as increasing muscular strength and even improving cognitive ability and memory.
Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals have limited experience with exercise programming for recovering stroke patients, contributing to the alarming gap in rehabilitation progress between the time they are discharged from inpatient care and the time they are able to begin home exercises. The good news is simple home exercises may mitigate the effects of this rehabilitation gap by improving motor recovery and and fine motor skills, upper-arm strength, walking ability, and balance. They may even improve cognitive function.
Speak with your doctor before you begin a new exercise routine. If you experience any pain, discomfort, or a worsening of your symptoms, stop the exercises immediately and contact your health care provider.
By exercising regularly during rehab, patients can
- improve motor recovery and fine motor skills
- regain upper-arm strength
- improve walking ability and balance
- help improve cognitive function
For best results, begin with the most basic exercises below, and then work your way toward the advanced levels.
Having a stroke can decrease your brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body. An inability to control your hands may deprive you of the opportunity to type an email, participate in your favorite pastimes, or even hold the hand of a loved one. Dedicating time to hand exercises can help you relearn control and build strength in them through the following motions.
Curl your fingers into a fist, as if you are grasping a small ball, then slowly uncurl them and spread your fingers as far apart as you can. Repeat this exercise ten times per physical therapy session.
Rest your affected hand on a flat surface. Place one end of a rubber band underneath one finger, and hold the other end with your unaffected hand while moving the rubber band up and down to passively exercise your finger.
Place a sheet of paper on a table, and rest your affected hand on top of it, palm down. Slide your fingers into a fist to crumple the sheet of paper, as if you were going to throw it out.
As stroke typically affects only one side of the body, it is often tempting to rely on the unaffected arm for tasks such as holding and releasing objects. In order to replenish your range of motion as much as possible, it is imperative that you use your affected arm as much as you can by practicing moving and lifting with it in the skills below.
While holding an empty plastic shopping bag in your affected hand, practice walking across the room as if you were bringing in groceries. As your ability to grasp and release the bag improves, try adding a lightweight item to the bag to continue strengthening your arm.
While seated in a chair, place a soccer-sized ball in your lap. Place your hands, palm side down, on top of the ball with the unaffected arm on top. Roll the ball down your lap and back to starting position. Focus on using your affected arm as much as possible. As you gain strength, try removing your unaffected arm altogether.
Beginning in a seated position on the floor, place your hands at your sides, slightly behind your hips with your fingers pointed forward. Press the heel of your hand into the floor to slightly lift your hips. Start with one repetition, and repeat as you gain strength.
While you work on improving leg strength, it is always important to hold onto a stable surface and have someone nearby who can spot you in case you lose your balance. These movements can help you regain the ability to participate in activities requiring you to stand or walk.
With the help of a partner and a walker or other stable surface, stand up out of a chair while making sure to use your affected leg.
While sitting in a chair with a towel on the ground in front of you, place your foot on the towel. Crumple the towel with your foot as you scrunch your toes, making a fist with your foot.
(source: Stroke Rehab)
Starting from a standing position, bend your knees as if you are going to sit on a chair. As you get stronger, try repeating this exercise. This can also be done by leaning against a physical therapy ball that’s between you and a wall.
Due to a loss of sensation on one side of the body, stroke can negatively impact your balance,particularly if your left side is affected. The techniques below can help retrain your body to move more efficiently.
While supporting yourself on a table, counter, or other stable surface, raise your heels off the floor from a standing position so you’re on tiptoe. Then slowly lower your heels back to the floor.
With the help of a spotter for safety, practice walking as if you are on a balance beam. Place one foot on the ground with your other foot directly in front of it, heel touching toes. Move as slowly as you like, one step at a time and only speeding up after you’ve increased your strength and balance.
This exercise should not be attempted if you rely on a walker for mobility. Place a paper circle on the ground, surrounded by four other circles. While standing on the center circle, reach your affected foot out and tap your toe on each surrounding circle three times. It is not necessary to shift your weight to the affected foot for this exercise, and the use of a cane may be helpful.