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FAQ: Physical Therapy for Stroke Survivors


Stroke survivors may be facing a long road to recovery after their attack. Physical therapy is a very common part of stroke rehabilitation therapy, because it focuses on helping survivors recover control of their bodies, increasing their coordination and strength, and ultimately restoring their motion and ability to function independently. Our rehabilitation team at King Street Rehab is here to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about physical therapy for stroke survivors.

What Is the Purpose of Physical Therapy After a Stroke?

As mentioned above, physical therapy for stroke victims focuses on restoring function throughout the body. Many stroke victims suffer from paralysis, which means that it is critical to work on maintaining muscle tone while also working on increasing voluntary control of the paralyzed body parts. Often, physical therapists will get to work maintaining the muscles of the affected body parts before a patient regains voluntary movement. As functioning returns, physical therapy will focus on retraining the patient’s brain to control the entire body again.

How Soon After a Stroke Should Physical Therapy Begin?

The recovery process begins as soon as a patient is stabilized and oxygen is restored to the brain. Post-stroke physical rehabilitation is an important part of the recovery process, which is why it may begin as soon as 24 hours after the stroke. Often, physical therapy will begin with muscle stimulation to prevent stiffness and loss of muscle tone, and will progress to retraining the brain to control muscles again.

What Can One Expect for Physical Therapy After Their Discharge from the Hospital?

Physical therapy often begins while a patient is still in the hospital, but it will need to continue after they have been released. Rehabilitation centers, like King Street Rehab, offer an alternative to recovery at home. These facilities offer full-time post-stroke care, with a highly trained therapeutic team on staff to work with patients and help support a complete recovery. Doctors or neurologists will probably provide a referral to the therapies you need for a patient’s recovery, but there may be other options to explore as well.

What Happens During Post-Stroke Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy focuses on individualized treatment plans that is customized to meet the unique needs of every stroke survivor. A physical therapist will conduct a full evaluation to understand where a patient’s areas of needs are and will develop a treatment plan based on those needs. Patients or their loved one will work with a physical therapist to develop recovery goals—long-term and short-term—to work towards.

To reach these goals, the psychical therapy regimen will focus on helping patients safely perform movements, improve balance, relearn coordination, and retrain the brain in functional tasks like grasping objects and walking. Physical therapy may also include training in the use of physical therapy equipment to help speed your recovery.

What Types of Post-Stroke Physical Therapy Programs Are There?

There are a few options for physical therapy services, so it’s easier for patients to find the right therapeutic options for their needs. Some of the most common programs are:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation facilities: Stroke survivors with severe impairments can receive 24-hour support at one of these facilities. Skilled nursing staff, doctors, and therapists will work with patients to address the most critical parts of their recovery. Inpatient therapy programs are recommended for patients who need frequent, lengthy therapy sessions for their recovery.
  • Outpatient physical therapy programs: If a patient requires less-intensive physical therapy, and outpatient program may be right for them. Patients can live comfortably at home, and will meet with a therapist in a hospital or a therapy clinic for their sessions. This option offers less medical assistance and supervision, but also doesn’t require a stay at the facility.
  • Home-based physical therapy: If a patient’s doctor recommends acute care at home, home-based physical therapy may be an option. The physical therapist will come to the patient’s home to conduct therapy sessions and work on exercises.

What Types of Interventions Are Used in Post-Stroke Recovery?

There are a variety of therapeutic treatments that may be used, depending on the patient’s unique needs. These can include muscle stimulation, exercises designed to increase coordination, strength, and balance, and training on adaptive devices and strategies. The types of exercises and treatments will change to meet the ongoing needs of the patient and help them work towards their goals.

Is your loved one in need of rehabilitation services after a stroke? Our exceptional team of Westchester County rehabilitation specialists are here to help! With our state of the art inpatient facility, highly experienced therapy staff, and compassionate care, King Street Rehab is here to support your loved one’s recovery at every step of their journey. Schedule a free tour to discover the possibilities of your loved one’s recovery.

Contact our team today. Call (914) 937-5800.

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