Recovery after a stroke is a slow process that is difficult to understand and, above all, requires great effort. Strokes consist of the interruption of the blood flow in some parts of the brain, either due to bleeding or an arterial obstruction, and from there, its severity derives.
This causes the brain cells in the affected area to die, as they receive neither oxygen nor nutrients. Therefore, depending on the stroke region, the sequelae will be rehabilitated, which may be speech, mobility, or mood.
What does a stroke consist of?
A stroke is a medical emergency in which an injury occurs in an area of the brain that does not have a blood supply. In 85% of cases, the cause lies in a blockage of the arteries that carry the oxygenated blood to the neurons. This obstruction can be in the neck (in the carotid arteries) or in the brain itself.
Another cause is hemorrhaging that prevent blood from reaching all areas, by filtering and losing itself in the brain support tissue. In either situation, the neurons only resist for a few minutes without oxygen and then die.
The brain is the common complex gland in the body. It is responsible for coordinating all the functions we perform, such as movements, language, and memory. The connections between neurons are unique and different in each person; Hence, everyone has a way of thinking and a specific personality.
The problem is that when there are a stroke and cells in a particular part of this organdie, one or more different functions can be affected. It is a situation that produces both physical and psychosocial damage to the person.
According to studies, in the United States alone, more than 700,000 people suffer a stroke each year. Of all of them, a third die. However, the other two-thirds survive and require the recovery process to begin to rehabilitate.
Why does recovery happen after a stroke?
Stroke is one of the most significant reasons for disability today. After a stroke, recovery aims to improve the quality of life of the affected person and help them become as independent as possible again.
However, this process does not reverse brain damage. These injuries are permanent. It is not exactly what happens at the neural level to explain why rehabilitation works.
However, there are some hypotheses on the subject:
- First, it is believed that when an area has been damaged, recovery after a stroke leads to other areas of the brain taking over the functions it performed. This is due to neuronal plasticity, a property by which the connections between cells of the nervous system can change to adapt.
- Another reason could be that the cells in that area, instead of dying from lack of blood, become damaged, making them susceptible to repair. This would explain why, by restoring blood flow, the functions remain intact and have not been forgotten.
How is rehabilitation carried out?
Recovery after a stroke usually begins as soon as the person is stabilized.
This means that most of the time, it starts between 24 to 48 after the episode. This is done because speed has been found to improve the prognosis.
While it is true that this process often begins in the hospital, it is not the only place where it can be done. Rehabilitation can be done in specialized centers, outpatient consultations, and even in the patient’s own home.
For this type of recovery, a multidisciplinary team is required. Both kinesiologists, nurses, therapists, and doctors are essential to achieve full rehabilitation. However, it always depends on which area has been affected.
Psychologists and speech therapists, like many other professionals, also play an important role. We must not forget that a stroke has physiological consequences and affects the entire existence and quality of life.
Recovery strategies after a stroke
Recovery after a stroke can include different strategies, depending on what functions to rehabilitate. For example, when mobility has been affected, training and exercises that improve motor skills are usually carried out, with a lot of participation by physical therapists.
Speech is another of the capacities that tend to be most damaged. Therapy to improve communication disorders is one of the most used in this process. In the same way, a psychological evaluation of the patient is always carried out, since words are fundamental for any human being. The fact of not being able to communicate as one would like has psychic consequences as well.
The truth is that recovery after a stroke can take years. It must be done with patience and realism, being aware that the search is an improvement, but that there may be functions that are never restored.
The treating team must set achievable goals. Similarly, the social network to support the patient, family, and friends, have the task of accompanying without generating false expectations. Rehabilitation techniques have improved a lot in the last decades, but we are still facing consequences that are difficult to eradicate.