Stroke Rehabilitation - What to Expect After a Stroke
Your disabilities and your
ability to get better after a
stroke depend on:
- Which side of the brain was affected (whether
it is your dominant side).
- Which part of the brain was damaged by
- How much of the brain was damaged.
general health before the stroke.
Impairments after a stroke may include problems with
muscles and movement. These include:
- Weakness on one side of the body. This may cause you to have trouble walking, grasping objects, or
doing other tasks. The side of the body that is affected is opposite from the
side of the brain that was damaged by the stroke.
- Joint pain and rigidity. A person with a very weak arm may
have shoulder pain caused by a tight or locked-up joint. Movement of the joint
is essential to keep it from "freezing" and to make sure that you can move it
easily when your strength returns.
- Muscle stiffness or spasms (spasticity). If you have spasticity, you may need certain medicines or injections of
substances that block nerve reactions.
- Problems with your sense of touch or your ability to feel hot and cold. You may also have problems judging the position
of parts of your body.
- Pain, numbness, or tingling in your limbs.
- Trouble with starting and coordinating body movements (apraxia).
- Problems swallowing and eating (dysphagia). For more information, see
dysphagia. See also:
- Stroke Recovery: Coping With Eating Problems.
- Urinary or bowel problems. You may have trouble holding your urine (urinary incontinence)
or trouble emptying your bladder (urinary retention). Or you may have
constipation or problems controlling bowel movements. Although this can make
you feel embarrassed or discouraged, these issues are usually not permanent.
For more information, see
how to manage bladder and bowel problems after a stroke.
Other problems involve how you process information and your
emotions. These include:
- Speech and language problems (aphasia). Aphasia usually results from damage to the left side of the
brain, which is the area responsible for language. Some people who have aphasia
may not be able to understand written or spoken language, read or write, or
express their own thoughts. For information on coping with communication
how to manage speech and language problems after a stroke.
- Memory and cognitive problems. You may have damage to parts
of your brain that control awareness, learning, and memory. You may have
trouble focusing or remembering. It may be difficult to make plans, learn new
activities, or do other complex tasks. You may not be able to acknowledge the
physical impairments caused by your stroke. For more information, see
changes in speed of action, and
changes in judgment after a stroke.
- Problems with perception. You may have trouble judging
distance, size, position, rate of movement, form, and how parts relate to the
whole. Some people have trouble recognizing body parts
on the affected side. This is especially true for people who do not have
feeling in the affected arm or leg. For more information, see
changes in perception after a
- Problems with vision. You may have problems seeing in some or all of the normal areas of vision. For more information, see vision problems after a stroke.
- Emotional problems. Fear,
anxiety, anger, sadness, frustration, and grief are common after a stroke.
About one-third of people older than 65 who have had a stroke have symptoms of
depression.1 Depression is a serious condition that
requires treatment. For more information, see
changes in emotions and
recognizing and dealing with depression after a