5 things to know to help get your arm moving after stroke
1. The problem is in your brain
While you may feel that it is the arm that is having the trouble, it is the part of the brain that controls your arm that is injured. Blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off and those brain cells die. But, the healthy brain tissue left can make new connections to replace the connections that were lost. This is called Neuroplasticity. It takes appropriate specific repetition of appropriate arm movements to make use of it. Therapists who specialize in Stroke know how to place an emphasis on NEUROPLASTICITY.
2. Give it a job-
After a stroke your legs get put back to work pretty quickly- we all want to get up and go to the bathroom! Your arm often has jobs that require lots of complicated movements at all the joints. Starting with simpler movements (“easier jobs”) can be a way to be successful putting your arm to work. One example would be to put your arm in a position next to you on a hard surface when you are sitting, to support yourself. That is a basic position that can help maintain ranges, give your brain the feel that the arm it there and may help it wake up. If you have tightness or stiffness that makes this hard- seek out help from a Stroke Specialist therapist to help get you on the right track.
3. Speaking of giving your brain a chance to “feel” your arm…
Frequently after a stroke, the sensation in your body may change. You may not “FEEL” your more affected side like you did before your stroke. BUT…all touches and pressures to that side are sending signals to your brain to help your brain “wake up”. In the beginning, you may have to watch your body move to know what it is doing, or to make it move as you intend. That is ok- it is a way to compensate for that impaired sensation. What you want to do is continue to give that arm opportunities to feel different sensations – including you touching and rubbing it. Remind your brain that your arm is part of you.
4. Your arm is complex thing- The shoulder works by many muscles working in coordination with each other. Lots of times after a stroke, coordination is affected. If that is the case, a person can start moving their arm in a way that isn’t coordinated. This movement is hard to change into something functional. Also, a person can be damaging tissues in joints if movement is forced. Working with someone who understands how to gradually improve your coordination and strength so you can gain movement in your arm in a healthy way is important.
5. A Physical Therapist can help! Some people have the idea that only an Occupational Therapist can work on helping you improve your arm movement after stroke. But I have taken hours of continued study to treat the whole person after stroke and that includes increasing arm movement.
If you would like to talk more with me about what can be done to help increase your arm movement after stroke Schedule a FREE Phone Consultation