What comes to mind when you think “exercise?”
Of the two kinds of stroke rehabilitation exercises, active exercises are the kind most people think of: moving your muscles, either with or without resistance. These exercises are designed to help “re-wire” your brain to your muscles so you can get around and perform the duties you need to get through the day.
And while the “normal” exercises you think about may be part of your road to recovery, active exercises for stroke patients can also take forms you may not have thought about. For example:
Strengthening your core: simply sitting up is a skill we develop as babies, but some stroke survivors struggle with relearning it. Exercises that strengthen your core as well as help you regain balance are often part of a stroke rehabilitation plan.
Basic finger, hand and wrist exercises: squeezing a tube of toothpaste, turning a door knob, picking up objects… basic tasks can be a challenge for stroke survivor, so these active exercises may be part of your plan. The advantage with these is you don’t really need any special equipment.
Arm and leg exercises: these might include simple stretches or even standing a certain way to engage the muscles in your legs, feet, hips and core.
No two stroke rehabilitation exercise programs are alike. Each one helps address specific needs. And of course you should always talk to your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise routine.
Help restore your range of motion.
Stroke survivors often struggle with what medical and stroke rehabilitation professionals call “spasticity,” a condition where certain muscles stay contracted. Think for example of closing your fist, which contracts certain muscles in your hand and arms. Spasticity makes it difficult to relax the muscles it affects, limiting your range of motion.
Passive exercises for stroke survivors work to “loosen up” muscles and help prevent stiffness in joints. They’re called passive because the movement is being accomplished by an outside force: you or someone else flexing your fingers, for example. Passive exercises may also be done via a machine that gently moves your muscles for you.
Depending on your specific recovery plan, you may need to do some basic kinds of passive, stretching/flexing exercises including flexing your fingers, stretching your arms, flexing your wrists and more. Always talk to your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise routine.
To be sure, getting back what you lost to a stroke is a challenge, but taking things one step at a time helps make it more manageable. Don’t be in too much of a hurry, and let time do its work. In the meantime, celebrate and savor each small victory to keep you motivated along the way.