Your First Question After a Stroke
After experiencing a stroke, one of the first questions that a stroke survivor asks is, “how long will it take to recover from the damage done by my stroke.” Stroke recovery takes time. Depending on the severity of the stroke, stroke survivors may need voice (speech-language) therapy, physiotherapy, or occupational therapy to help them return to their everyday lives.
Understand that your stroke recovery timeline depends on many factors. Therefore, this article will explore a typical stroke recovery timeline that most stroke survivors face.
First Steps After a Stroke
After having a stroke, the patient is taken immediately to an emergency department or a stroke unit within a hospital. The treatment aims to stabilize the patient, prevent additional problems, and start treatment that will help recover damaged brain cells owing to lack of blood flow from clot formation or bleeding in the brain, causing a stroke.
Treatment in the emergency department entails ensuring that no additional medical problems are causing the stroke. Safeguarding that the patient is stable enough for transfer to a stroke unit or intensive care facility.
While in intensive care, patients are under the supervision of highly trained nurses and doctors.
Medical Procedures in the Hospital
The medical team takes the following measures to help reduce complications of stroke:
Administering medications, such as aspirin, heparin, and beta-blockers to help prevent another stroke or heart attack.
Administration of medications like thrombolytic (clot-busting drugs) if the stroke is due to a clot.
Protection of the patient’s airway if they are having problems breathing.
A cervical collar prevents patients from moving their necks if they risk injuring themselves further.
Arterial tourniquets may be placed on the affected arm or leg if it has stopped bleeding due to clot formation and can no longer provide adequate blood supply to the tissues. Arterial tourniquets work by restricting and controlling blood flow in an affected limb and can be left in place until surgery.
Insert a urinary catheter, if needed, to drain urine from the bladder.
Treatment with medications like thrombolytic (clot-busting drugs) to dissolve clots if these are causing the stroke.
Some patients undergo surgery to unblock blood vessels and remove clots if the medical team feels that surgery will help.
Stroke Rehabilitation in the Hospital
Stroke rehabilitation is where a team of therapists helps patients relearn their motor skills affected by the stroke. Your stroke recovery begins at the earliest stage possible to enhance your recovery process.
If a stroke is minor to medium level, the patient might only need rehabilitation for a few days. However, if the stroke is significant, the patient might need to stay in an acute rehabilitation facility for weeks.
At this stage, the medical team focuses on helping the patient recover lost functions and learn compensatory skills to help them get around in their daily lives with the required assistance. Some of the therapies used in rehabilitation are:
Vocational and occupational therapy: where a therapist helps determine what type of work or job one can do, making sure that their working environment is safe and advising them on how they can go back to work when possible.
If a stroke has damaged someone’s ability to talk, a speech-language therapist may help in the patient’s rehabilitation.
Occupational therapy facilitates the relearning of basic skills, such as brushing teeth, showering, etc. Occupational therapists can help improve the individual’s quality of life.
A Physiotherapist will use different techniques and might include passive range of motion, assistance to move from lying to sitting, massaging or electrical stimulation to improve muscle response and maintain movement of all joints.
Recreational therapy might include different activities such as playing cards or wheelchair racing to improve physical fitness, mood, socialization skills etc.
The Side of the Affected Brain Matters
A stroke can happen in any part of the brain, affecting functions controlled by that brain area. Depending on the stroke location, there may be varying levels of disability or impairment.
The type of stroke is also an essential element of your stroke recovery process. The three types of strokes are ischemic, hemorrhagic, and transient ischemic attacks.
If the stroke is in the brain’s left hemisphere, it may affect right-sided functions like speech and motor skills. If the stroke is in the brain’s right hemisphere, it can affect left-sided functions like movement of one side or visual fields on one side. One may also develop weakness on one side of the body post a stroke.
Depending on how long ago the stroke happened, one may have to continue with therapy for months to get back to their former life.
Predicting Your Stroke Recovery Time
It is never possible to accurately predict what level of function a patient will recover from a stroke because each brain has a unique way of healing. It can be different for everyone. However, the recovery timeline usually goes as follows:
If you have a stroke, the first few days are critical. If not treated right away, an individual might die.
The first few weeks are when the risk of further strokes is highest. The patient should not leave the hospital during this period because their medical team can closely watch them and provide help right away if they need it.
Once things have calmed down after initial recovery, the patient may be transferred from an intensive care unit to a neurological ward, where they will continue rehab under close medical supervision.
As one starts recovering, different therapies are implemented to help in the relearning process of lost skills. These therapies are set up based on the rehab plan made by the medical team.
There may be one or more hospital visits during this time, depending on how long it takes for a patient to recover from their initial symptoms. After discharge from the hospital, there will likely be weekly outpatient appointments to receive rehabilitation treatment under medical supervision.
Injuries, either from the stroke or other unrelated injuries, can set a patient back in their recovery. People who have had a stroke should avoid activities that may cause further harm or damage to them because it could complicate their recovery process.
Individuals that have suffered a stroke can sometimes recover lost abilities after a year of rehabilitation. Every situation is unique, so the time it takes to recover varies a lot from person to person.
Typical Stroke Recovery Timeline
Which part of the brain was affected determines the recovery timeline? In addition, the severity and duration of the blockage or bleed will determine stroke recovery times. The following is a standard stroke recovery timetable:
1- 3 weeks after stroke – intensive therapy for relearning basic movement skills, needed to get out of bed, sit up, etc.
3- 6 weeks after stroke – the patient may be transferred to a neurological ward for further rehabilitation.
Six weeks- 6 months after stroke – outpatient therapy to learn essential functions like standing, walking, using the toilet etc.
One year- 1 ½ year after stroke – patients will likely be home and receive regular outpatient treatment, mostly at their homes under medical supervision. This outpatient therapy is called community-based rehabilitation.
One ½ year – to 2 years after stroke – the patient may need to continue outpatient treatment, but it will be less often. At this time, the team of providers would have set the individual up with various strategies and exercises to continue at home.
Two years- to 2 ½ years after stroke – the patient might occasionally go for regular checkups if needed, but this depends on their doctor’s advice.
Two ½ years – to 3 years after stroke – patients may still need checkups now and then if their doctor decides it is necessary.
After three years, the consensus is that patients do not need further checkups unless advised by their specialist. However, some people might wish to continue going for checkups if they feel the need to do so.
Individuals who have had a stroke should avoid activities that may cause further harm or injury to them because it could complicate their recovery process.
Depending on the brain damage, the individual might recover the skills they lost after approximately one year of rehabilitation. However, every case is different, and recovery time may vary drastically from person to person. People who have had a stroke can live healthy lives depending on the brain function lost following their stroke.
After a stroke, survivors may feel overwhelmed with many appointments to keep. It may be challenging to take in all their doctor’s information about what they need to do for rehabilitation.
It is vital to remain optimistic and know that we will reach your goals through arduous work and a dedicated support team behind you.
The information given in this article is not medical advice. It would be best to discuss your rehabilitation with medical professionals before acting.
About Bergin Motion
Bergin Motion is a Barrie Physiotherapy Clinic. Bergin Motion offers physiotherapy in Barrie to clients with a wide range of conditions.
The clinic in Barrie specializes in orthopedic, neurological, and pelvic health disciplines.
Bergin Motion treats clients both at their clinic and in the comfort of their own home if they cannot travel to the clinic.
Located in the south end of Barrie, Ontario, the physio clinic boasts 9000 sq. ft., with seven treatment rooms and a fully equipped gym.