A stroke is not only a life-changing event, but it is also an extremely emotional moment for you, your family, and your friends. You may require arm care treatment while recovering from a stroke. As you go through this chapter, you’ll develop a better knowledge of how your body functions and why following a stroke, arm care is so crucial.
Although dead brain cells cannot be revived, the brain is remarkably adaptable. Through neuroplasticity, it can recruit new, healthy areas to take over lost functions.
This indicates that, while brain damage cannot be “cured,” the brain is robust and function can be restored. Neuroplasticity, for example, allows the remaining half of the brain to eventually operate as a whole in extreme circumstances where a hemispherectomy (removal of half the brain) is performed.
Neuroplasticity occurs in the brain as a result of your experiences and practices. You must push your brain to adapt via repetitive repetition to restore the use of your arm after a stroke.
Specific neuronal pathways in our brain are active when we practice something. These pathways may appear to be weak at first. However, when you repeatedly practice a skill, these neural pathways become stronger. We improve at riding a bike, for example, through practice.
As a result, completing arm rehabilitation exercises is the greatest technique to regain arm movement after a stroke. The neurological pathways in your brain that signal your arm muscles when and how to move become stronger with practice.
Although movement may appear difficult or clunky at first, with practice, arm mobility will improve over time.
Remember that restoring arm movement after a stroke all comes down to selecting the best rehabilitation strategy for you.
If you can’t move your affected arm, gentle rehabilitation techniques such as passive exercise or mental imagery are excellent places to start. Other therapies, such as FitMi home therapy, that encourage high repetition, aid in the acceleration of outcomes by accelerating rehabilitation.
Choose something motivating but not aggravating, and you’ll be well on your way to recuperation.
Methods for Regaining Arm Movement After Stroke
Nearly a dozen different types of therapy are listed below to help improve arm movement after a stroke. You’ll notice that they all have three things in common: practice, repetition, and movement. These are the keys to getting back on your feet after a stroke.
Following are some techniques that your therapist might suggest for restoring arm movement after a stroke:
1. Arm exercises
As previously said, the best technique to regain arm movement after a stroke is to practice arm rehabilitation exercises. It activates and promotes neuroplasticity in the brain.
It’s critical to strike a balance while developing any type of rehabilitative exercise program. Your exercise routine should make you feel pushed but not frustrated.
Also, keep in mind that the quality of your movements is important. While a number of exercises aid in the formation and solidification of neural connections, performing good-quality movement patterns is critical for regaining optimal arm mobility.
If you can’t move your arm, the following choice is a better place to start.
2. Passive exercises
What if your afflicted arm is completely paralyzed after a stroke? Is it true that exercise can aid in the healing of paralysis? Absolutely!
Regardless of how badly your arm mobility has been damaged, neuroplasticity can help. What important is that by moving your arm, you are stimulating the brain.
As a result, you can exercise passively if your affected arm is immobile. This can be accomplished on your own by moving your afflicted arm through therapeutic arm exercises with your non-affected arm, or by having a therapist or skilled caregiver move your affected arm for you.
This type of passive movement stimulates the brain and activates neuroplasticity. With regular practice, some survivors may be able to regain arm movement this way. Be advised that the results will most likely take time to appear.
After a few months of practice, for example, you might notice twitches in your arm. This could mean your arm is beginning to “wake up.” Hopefully, progress like this encourages you to keep going in the right direction.
Also, even if you don’t see effects right away, passive exercise is still beneficial to your health. To avoid muscle shortening and joint stiffness, it’s critical to move flaccid (paralyzed) limbs through their range of motion.
3. Mental imagery
Visualizing oneself doing something helps activate neuroplasticity in the same way that doing something physically does. This is why, in order to better their game, professional sportsmen spend time imagining themselves performing their sport.
“Mental imagery” provides potential benefits for stroke survivors who are paralyzed. You can still picture your arm and trigger neuroplasticity even if you can’t move it yet.
Scripts for mental images can be written for a variety of purposes, depending on your objectives.
- Using a knife to spread peanut butter over bread
- Taking a washcloth and squeezing out the water
- Wiping a counter with a towel
- Squeezing away the excess water with a washcloth
- Tossing the ball
When you combine mental images with physical practice, you get better outcomes than if you merely do mental practice. Before you begin your arm exercises, spend 5-10 minutes picturing them.
4. Mirror Therapy
Survivors may benefit from mirror therapy to help them imagine their afflicted limb moving. A mirror facing the non-affected limb is placed in the center of the body. When a survivor uses their non-affected arm to regain arm mobility, the mirror reflects a picture of their afflicted arm moving, deceiving the brain into picturing the affected arm moving.
5. FitMi Home Therapy
FitMi is a high-tech, interactive fitness equipment that can be used at home. It’s made to help you get a lot of repetitions out of various rehabilitation exercises, including arm exercises. Many stroke patients have used it to regain arm movement after a stroke, even if they had none to begin with.
The urge to intensify rehabilitation with highly repetitive workouts is the key benefit of utilizing FitMi. Diverse feedback (such as auditory and tactile feedback), which delivers even more stimulus to the brain, is another advantage of using the gadget. FitMi also adapts your fitness routine to your degree of ability. You’ll be challenged but not frustrated in this manner.
6. Botox Injections
Spasticity is a muscle stiffness syndrome that is a typical side effect of a stroke. It’s likely that you have some stiffness in your arm if your arm mobility has been compromised.
Although arm rehabilitation exercises can help reduce spasticity, spasticity can occasionally come in the way of exercising. When spasticity is severe, nerve blockers such as Botox might be used to temporarily relieve the spasticity. While the effects wear off after a while, necessitating several treatments, it can help loosen up your arm enough to practice exercises.
This gives a window of opportunity for neuroplasticity to be engaged, allowing you to eventually stop needing Botox injections. Instead, your arm stiffness will gradually decrease, and the mobility gains you’ve gained will carry over and increase as you continue to rehab.
7. Arm Splints
Splints can be used to prop your arm or hand open if you have significant stiffness or paralysis in your arm. After that, you can do some light-arm exercises. The key to regaining arm movement after a stroke is to create new neural pathways in the brain.
8. Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy
“Constraint-induced movement therapy” is another rehabilitation strategy for restoring arm movement after a stroke. It entails limiting the use of your non-affected arm in order to encourage you to use your affected arm. One technique to urge you to utilize your afflicted arm and hand is to place an oven mitt over your non-affected hand while conducting an activity.
This sort of therapy has been shown to be beneficial, although it can be inconvenient because you are unable to utilize your non-affected side. It’s important to remember that therapy should be difficult but not frustrating. Although CIMT is most beneficial when used for most of the day in conjunction with intense therapy, if you find yourself becoming frustrated, try it for shorter periods of time and work your way up.
9. Electrical Stimulation
Another arm rehabilitation therapy that has a lot of research behind it is electrical stimulation. It works by placing electrodes on the skin over the muscles that control the actions in question. Muscles contract as a result of the current, resulting in arm movement when electrical stimulation is provided through the electrodes. Electrical stimulation combined with rehabilitation exercise has been demonstrated to produce superior benefits than e-stim alone in studies.
Before attempting e-stim on your own, speak with your therapist. Your therapist can show you how to use the machine properly and where to position the electrodes. Those who have a problem with their arm’s sensation should use e-stim with caution, examining the skin for redness or discomfort as needed.
10. Arm Pedaling
Because the movement is bilateral, an arms peddler is an excellent piece of stroke rehab equipment for arm mobility. This implies you can aid your affected arm with your non-affected arm, which might be beneficial during rehabilitation.
This type of bilateral exercise is very effective for stroke survivors who have limited arm mobility to begin with. Despite the fact that you’re relying on your non-affected side to initiate movement, both sides are moving, which serves to excite the brain.
11. Weight Bearing
Carrying weight through your arm is another approach to enhance arm use. Setting your injured forearm or hand on a surface and placing some of your weight through it can be done while sitting or standing. This serves to deliver input from your arm to your brain, allowing neuroplasticity to rewire their connection.
Weight-bearing can also be easily included in your normal daily activities by leaning on your affected arm when brushing your teeth on the counter, chatting on the armrest of your chair, or playing cards at the table. You can activate neuroplasticity and promote recovery without even realizing it if you do it