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How to deal with post-stroke balance problems?

How to deal with post-stroke balance problems?

 

Stroke can affect anyone, regardless of age, and it’s often a life-changing event. Most stroke survivors experience long-term health issues afterward. Mobility and stability challenges are one of the most common and at the same time, most difficult problems.

Recovering from a stroke is not easy and being unable to stand strong and stable on your own feet might feel discouraging. With this article, we aim to bring reassurance to stroke survivors and provide you with the best ideas to improve your stability post-stroke.

What is a stroke?

Stroke is a serious medical emergency affecting 15 million people worldwide each year [1]. Your brain, just like your entire body, needs oxygen carried by the blood to function.  A stroke happens when the blood supply to a part of the brain gets cut off by a clot or a blood vessel rupture. Consequently, the brain cells in the affected region can stop functioning or simply die. This may result in short- or long-term damage to the brain. The outcomes of a stroke are varied, however many patients get challenged with some degree of mobility and stability problems [2]. Multiple symptoms can affect your balance, such as dizziness, muscle impairment, eyesight problems and tremors. This results in post-stroke balance recovery being a very complex and delicate process.

No one-size-fits-all solution.

Every stroke survivor struggles with unique problems which require an individual approach. Additionally, the patients and their symptoms evolve in time, therefore the solution must evolve with them. Here, we recommend the most universal solutions to post-stroke mobility, stability and balance problems.

What are the best solutions to improve your balance after a stroke?

1. Physiotherapy

The modern-day approach to physiotherapy is remarkably effective in post-stroke rehabilitation. The physiotherapists know that your brain has the wondrous potential to re-wire itself. It’s called neuroplasticity.

Simply put, neuroplasticity lets you learn, also skills requiring movement. Thanks to this process, when one part of your brain was affected by a stroke and is dysfunctional, another region can take over its role. Making new connections between neurons needs work and repetition. Fortunately, researchers show that even just 1.5 hours of exercise, 3-5 times per week, can greatly improve your balance and walking [3]. It will be even more efficient if your exercise regimen is tailored to your needs by a skilled physiotherapist.

What’s more, new (as well as old and repurposed) therapies successfully adapted to specific body functions and brain regions are becoming available. One impressive example is vestibular therapy, which consists of simple, repetitive exercises that can alleviate post-stroke dizziness in 90% of patients [4,5].

The process of making new connections between neurons in the brain doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes a lot of persistence and repetition. That’s why during a physiotherapy session you’ll be asked to patiently repeat movements that require your effort and awareness. Such rehabilitation will stimulate neuroplasticity and your brain will step-by-step redirect the affected activity to its fully functional parts [6]. Depending on the severity of your problems, the rehabilitation might take months to years. Thus, it’s important to remember that your patience and attitude is the true key to getting better.

2. Well-suited assistive device

Physiotherapy is without a doubt your best chance to improve your post-stroke balance and mobility. However, it doesn’t mean you have to struggle with walking while you’re in recovery. Various assistive devices can help you feel stable and confident while giving you the autonomy to move around.

Walking canes are highly popular among stroke survivors because of their effectiveness in providing physical support. Moreover, they can improve your gait (walking manner), walking speed and step length [7]. However, not all types of canes might suit your needs.

Research shows that four-pointed (quad) canes are more effective as balance aids than regular canes [8] in stroke survivors who experience semi-paralysis (hemiplegia) or weakness of one side of the body (hemiparesis). The issue with quad-canes however is that they need to be lifted with every step. When lifted, there is no more support, and the forward momentum is gone. This presents a risk for imbalance and causes a fear of falling.

When recovering from a stroke, patients need continuous balance support. The Wheeleo® was designed so that it doesn’t require lifting. The rollator-cane has four large wheels and a central balance point, allowing for continuous flow and support. This design works perfectly for post-stroke patients providing them with exceptional stability while facilitating their mobility (watch a stroke survivor testimony). Wheeleo® also successfully increases the speed of walking in hemiplegic patients [9], which keeps them motivated to recover.

Exoskeletons and orthoses are other assistive devices that could help you gain more stability after a stroke. Once the patient has regained walking ability, orthoses devices facilitate a more favorable position and thus enable spontaneous walking [10, 11]. Overall, it is important to remember that any assistive device should be personalized to suit your needs to give the best effects.

3. Regular activity

Physiotherapy is very important but to get through the recovery smoothly, you should also consider other forms of movement. Stroke survivors report that their physical and mental health gets a boost when they’re active in their daily lives.  Don’t forget to adjust your activities to what works for you. It doesn’t have to be hard! Simple sitting up in bed can be a great activity if it’s repeated a few times. Other ways include cleaning up, going for walks, and climbing up stairs. If you overexert yourself, it might offset the positive effects of your moving.

Depending on your stability and mobility challenges, using a walker-cane might be a great way to stay active. Wheeleo® was designed to make it easy to become independent during your recovery. Its modern looks make it suitable for everyone regardless of age. Since stroke can affect also young people, Wheeleo® is a great walking aid to keep your confidence intact. Recovery from a stroke shows your strength, and Wheeleo® supports that with its powerful design.

You’re not alone

Starting to use assistive devices, getting personalized physiotherapy, and engaging in daily movement may sound very hard at the beginning of your road to recovery. Stroke affects everyone differently but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Family, friends, doctors, and stroke survivor support groups can help you stay motivated. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them. Recovery will take time and patience, but their support and encouragement to keep going will guarantee that your stability and mobility will improve. 

Get motivated by patients using Wheeleo®:

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