Stroke causes damage to the part of your brain that controls movement, you may experience weakness or paralysis on one side of your body and problems with moving and carrying out everyday activities. This article explains how physiotherapy can help you to recover, what your treatment might involve and how you can see a physiotherapist. Patient may experience weakness, or even complete paralysis (called hemiplegia) in the muscles of one side of your body. This can make it difficult to move or use your limbs and get about.
The affected side of the body may feel different. Affected limbs may feel heavy because the weakness makes them difficult to move. Some people have more unusual sensations such as pins and needles, hot and cold sensations or feel as though water is running down their limb. Occasionally they can be painful. The patient may have problems with your posture and balance, making it difficult to stay upright and you may be more likely to have a fall. Joints on the affected side, such as shoulder, may be vulnerable to injury, for example if your arm is pulled or its weight is allowed to ‘drag.’ This can cause a partial dislocation (called subluxation) or ‘frozen shoulder’, where shoulder becomes painful and difficult to move.
After a stroke, our brains cannot grow new cells to replace the ones that have been damaged, so your recovery depends on your brain’s ability to reorganise its undamaged cells and make up for what has been lost. This is called neuroplasticity. Physiotherapy can provide expert practical guidance to help.
Physiotherapists often work with other members of the stroke team to make sure they can help with the range of problems that stroke can cause. It is important to be as active as possible as soon as you can after your stroke, so the team will encourage you to get up and about as much as you are able to, whether this is continuing with your previous activities or just sitting in a chair.
In the early stages, and for people with relatively mild problems, physiotherapy will focus on preventing complications and restoring your ability to move and be active again.