Wednesday, May 11th, 2022
The damage inflicted by a stroke is unique to every patient, and so is the recovery process. It is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The brain consists of 100 billion neurons and 200 trillion synapses. It’s nearly impossible to grasp the complexity and power of this amazing organ!
During a stroke, 32,000 neurons die every second, totaling around 1.2 billion for the entire event. That’s a lot, but consider the total neurons in the brain, it’s around one percent. That means 99 percent of the brain is still intact!
A variety of exercises and movements can be used to provide cues to the brain. Thanks to pioneers like Dr. Merzenich (https://lnkd.in/dR9zGCmx) , who conducted landmark studies in the 1980’s that confirmed the adult brain is not hard-wired, practitioners have an opportunity to “rewire the brain”.
Those cues direct the brain on how to adapt, creating new neural pathways that can overcome any brain damage and alleviate or compensate for physical and mental deficits.
This means they can work around the one percent that’s been impacted through neuroplasticity, which can be defined as the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections after injuries, such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury (National Library of Medicine).
This “neuroplasticity” was considered impossible a few decades ago.
So, why do most traditional stroke therapies fail?
They abandon a stroke survivor before this rewiring (neuroplasticity) takes place. Traditional tests which determine if therapy is making an impact do not detect the subtle movements that indicate neuroplasticity is taking place.
Fortunately, Merzenich, and others, have offered the clinical community an amazing contribution.
As therapists, we must ask ourselves “What did I do during my skilled 45 minutes session to drive neuroplasticity for my patient today?” “Did I do enough?”
The average number of repetitions performed in a standard therapy session is 30. Yes, 30! We need at least 300-400 reps per session to begin rewiring the brain to provide meaningful outcomes.
Consider this: There are many studies that show the number of repetitions it takes to “master” a movement. A golf swing, throwing a baseball, ice skating, playing the piano, etc. These repetitions trigger the same rewiring of the brain and require thousands of repetitions.
Stroke survivors know that the journey to full recovery can be a long one. It is important to reiterate to them that repetition is key because their brain needs to constantly be reminded how to move a part of the body. With every reminder, connections are reinforced and the ability to successfully complete the action becomes more certain.
Each repetition leaves a footprint, a pathway for the next rep to build on and move further into neuroplasticity – the stage where the brain “remembers” the paths, or new wiring, allowing someone to get better, and keep getting better!
With all the exciting new therapy solutions available at our fingertips, now is the time to challenge ourselves to toss out conventional concepts, usually not backed by research (gasp!) and focus on new protocols, supported by science, that produce continuous and lasting results.
If you are a stroke survivor or a caregiver, ask your therapist about Dr. Merzenich’s research and read “Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life”.
The longer the brain sits dormant before beginning rehabilitation or the longer a patient waits between rehabilitation sessions, the longer it will take for the brain to establish the necessary connections to drive body parts. The sooner after a stroke event a survivor begins strengthening their brain through neuroplastic exercises (such as performing repetitions or mirror therapy), the quicker they are able to begin reaping the benefits
Rewiring the brain takes effort and commitment, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it does work, providing hope for stroke survivors who’ve been left behind. One rep at a time.
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the Saebo website is solely at your own risk.
Friday, March 8th, 2019
Coy’s life before his stroke on December 2, 2018, was fun and fulfilling. He gathered regularly with friends and family, was a talented fast-talking auctioneer, traveled all over to tractor shows, and raised family of goats on a small farm. Like many other stroke survivors, Coy’s stroke caused his right dominant arm and hand to be almost entirely paralyzed. He also struggled to pay attention to his affected side—a very common yet disabling condition that can be a safety concern and interferes with regaining use of the weaker side.
Friday, July 13th, 2018
A stroke can take a seemingly healthy and vibrant individual and change their life in an instant. Learning how to do basic daily tasks, such as self-feeding or getting dressed each day, can quickly feel like an overwhelming physical hurdle. Despite having full active movement in your affected hand, you may have decreased strength and dexterity in your hand due to your stroke. This may be making it difficult to grasp and release objects, making daily tasks seem like insurmountable obstacles. We will show you some helpful hand exercises for stroke recovery to help you reclaim your strength and dexterity.
Unfortunately, sometimes rehab does not bring back full control and use of your hands, making these daily tasks a tremendous challenge. While you begin your recovery it’s crucial that you incorporate hand exercises for stroke recovery into your daily life to bring back dexterity and use of your fingers.
Thursday, July 12th, 2018
Stroke survivors will undoubtedly face a variety of hardships after a stroke event — physical impairments, emotional difficulties, mental disabilities — not to mention a heightened risk of a second attack. The road of rehabilitation can be a long one, but huge advances in both medical technology and therapeutic techniques have made it possible for survivors to enjoy incredible recoveries.
Monday, June 11th, 2018
Saturday, June 9th, 2018
Life after a stroke can be challenging. Many patients wonder if they will ever fully recover their muscle coordination, or how long or difficult the process of recovery may be. Fortunately, the field of occupational and physical therapy has come a long way in developing approaches that help patients regain controlled muscle movements after a stroke.
There are seven recognized stages of stroke recovery through which most patients progress. Also known as the Brunnstrom Approach, the seven stages framework views spastic and involuntary muscle movement as part of the process and uses them to aid in rehabilitation.
Thursday, June 7th, 2018
Stroke is among the top three causes of death in the United States, but nothing comes close to stroke as the leading cause of long-term disability. After patients survive a stroke, their risk of having another stroke increases, along with their likelihood of suffering a serious disability as a result. However, medical and technological advances have made it easier to help patients cope and recover. Occupational therapy is an effective way to restore mobility and reduce future risks for stroke survivors.
Therapy for stroke survivors often involves “re-training” or reprogramming the brain after neurological damage. As we learn more about the relationship between the brain, muscles, and connective tissue, one stimulating innovation is emerging as a top tool for recovery. Today, many patients are relying on a stroke rehabilitation gloves & dynamic splints to reverse damage, restore mobility, and reduce pain after a stroke.
But how, exactly, does wearing these orthoses treat symptoms of stroke survivors? Truth is, there are many benefits for patients who incorporate a glove or a dynamic splint into their recovery process.
Monday, April 16th, 2018
Every stroke is different, and every patient’s stroke recovery experience is, too. Just as your symptoms depend on the severity of the stroke and treatment you received, your ability to regain certain functions and work toward recovery will also depend on a variety of different physical factors. However, it helps to know a little more about what to expect in the days and weeks ahead.
You’ve learned about the different stages of stroke recovery, but in order to simplify this experience and improve recovery odds, it’s important to understand more about each stage. If a patient or loved one has recently experienced a stroke and lost motor control on one side of their body, they’re probably in Stage 1 of their recovery process.
But what exactly does “Stage 1” mean, and how can patients and their caregivers navigate this first chapter of the journey toward recovery? Let’s start by breaking down the nature of this first stage. After you understand the basics of your Stage 1 progress, start applying some of the most helpful recovery techniques to reach the second stage.
Thursday, February 22nd, 2018
In all stages of growth and development, repetition is key to successful long-term learning and information retention. Repetition is especially beneficial for stroke survivors who seek to regain motor function, strength, and coordination. Consistent repetition that re-establishes communication between the damaged parts of the brain and the body is crucial in stroke rehabilitation.
Tuesday, October 31st, 2017
Sleep disruption is very common after suffering a stroke, more than half of survivors have problems sleeping in the months following. Poor sleep can slow recovery, cause depression, and even lead to memory problems. Fortunately, there are many ways to alleviate these symptoms.