Whether it happens to you or someone you love, a stroke can be a scary experience.

Also known as a “brain attack,” stroke can affect your physical and mental function. That’s why stroke rehabilitation is vital. It can help you re-learn skills and improve your quality of life.

Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability in the United States.

Early and thorough stroke rehab can help stroke victims work toward recovery.

RELATED: Identifying Signs of Stroke

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What Is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when a:

  • Clot blocks the blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain (an ischemic stroke).
  • Blood vessel in the brain becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood to leak into the brain (a hemorrhagic stroke).

Depending on the part of your brain affected, a stroke can cause a range of complications, including:

  • Weakness, paralysis, and problems with balance or coordination.
  • Pain, numbness, or burning and tingling sensations.
  • Fatigue.
  • Inattention to one side of the body, also called neglect. In extreme cases, you may not be aware of your arm or leg.
  • Urinary or bowel incontinence.
  • Speech problems or trouble understanding speech, reading, or writing.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Memory problems, poor attention span, or trouble solving problems.
  • Vision problems.
  • Depression, anxiety, or mood swings with emotional outbursts.

While these symptoms can limit your quality of life, they aren’t always permanent. In fact, stroke rehab can help many people recover skills lost to stroke.

How Stroke Rehabilitation Helps You Recover

There’s not just one approach to stroke recovery.

Rehab can take a few different forms, depending on the part of your body or type of function affected.

You can start rehab as early as 24 hours after a stroke.

You can find stroke rehabilitation programs:

  • In hospitals.
  • At long-term care facilities (such as nursing homes).
  • At outpatient clinics.
  • Through home health care agencies.

Rehab can last as long as it takes you to start getting better. Your doctor can tell you more about these and other approaches to regaining your function and independence.

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute is part of the largest rehab network in western Pennsylvania. It offers both inpatient and transitional care for many conditions, including stroke.

Some of the most common types of stroke therapies and rehab include:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen motor skills and improve coordination and balance.
  • Mobility training to help you learn to use aids such as canes, walkers, and braces.
  • Occupational therapy to help you with activities of daily living (like grooming, dressing, bathing, and cooking).
  • Constraint-induced therapy to strengthen weak limbs.
  • Range-of-motion therapy to decrease muscle tension and improve mobility through exercises.
  • Technology-assisted therapies — such as electrical stimulation — to stimulate weak muscles and improve motor skills.
  • Speech therapy to help you regain language, speech, and cognitive skills.
  • Psychotherapy to address the emotional effects of stroke.

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.