Rehabilitation After Stroke: Outpatient Therapy for Stroke Recovery

You’re enjoying a quiet evening with family when suddenly your face, arm, and leg on one side of your body go completely numb. You quickly feel dizzy and confused.

That’s how fast a stroke can creep up on you. It cuts off the oxygen supply to your brain and requires immediate medical assistance.

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What’s a Stroke?

Strokes are among the leading causes of death and long-term disability in America. There are two types of strokes:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke (when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, causing brain cells to die)
  • Ischemic stroke (when a blood clot blocks an artery).

If you or a loved one experiences a stroke, experts at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute can tailor treatment plans. These can help you regain function and skills after a stroke.

Here’s what you need to know about rehabilitation after a stroke.

Stroke Recovery in the Hospital

Recovery after a stroke almost always starts in the hospital. First, clinicians stabilize the person who had the stroke. Then, they identify the type of stroke experienced.

After that, a care team of brain doctors, physiatrists, therapists, nurses, and more work together on a treatment plan.

Recovery may start in the intensive care unit depending on how serious your stroke was.

Stroke recovery looks different for everyone. It can take weeks or years depending on many factors. In the first few weeks after a stroke, common long-term effects:

  • Cognitive symptoms like trouble with thinking, memory, and attention.
  • Emotional symptoms like impulsive behavior, depression, or the inability to control or express emotions.
  • Physical symptoms like paralysis, numbness, weakness, fatigue, trouble swallowing, and bladder or bowel control.

Outpatient Stroke Rehabilitation

You may need outpatient therapy to continue your recovery after you leave the hospital. Outpatient treatment allows you to recover at home and visit a UPMC Rehabilitation Institute outpatient clinic for your treatment plan.

Depending on the aftereffects of your stroke, you may need different types of therapies. These can help you recover and regain control of your mind, body, and independence.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is often the main form of rehab for stroke patients. Its repeated exercises can train stroke survivors to relearn activities, regain lost skills, improve mobility, and increase independence. You may see a physical therapist as early as 24 hours after your stroke.

The goal of this is to help strengthen your ability to walk, stand, sit, lie down, and move between tasks. Your rehab may start with passive exercises in which the therapist moves your limbs for you. With time, you can transition to active exercises to strengthen your abilities.

Strokes often affect a person’s nervous system. This can cause physical disability and impact daily life. UPMC’s neurorehabilitation experts focus on testing and treating conditions affecting the nervous system. This can help to return physical performance and fitness to an optimal level.

They may also recommend a variety of treatments and recovery exercises to boost your abilities. This depends on your functional abilities and their initial tests.

Occupational therapy

Similar to physical therapy, occupational therapy (OT) also uses exercise and training to help you relearn basic skills. Individualized treatment plans may include home exercises, stress management, and home safety.

They may also include energy conservation and work simplification. All of these promote a safe return to daily activities.

Occupational therapists may help you work on everyday activities, such as cooking, eating, bathing, dressing, reading, writing, and going to the bathroom. OTs can also help modify patients’ homes and workspaces until they work for independent living.

They may help you choose clothing that avoids buttons or zippers, for example. They may also help you find tools and devices you need for assistance with troubling tasks.

Speech therapy

Speech therapists can help you relearn how to speak, swallow, and communicate with others. They can also help with coping skills as you work through the mental tools of regaining communication. While it may take time and patience, speech therapy can help you regain some, or all, of your speaking and swallowing abilities.

Facial Nerve Therapy

A stroke may cause some level of temporary facial paralysis. This can affect a person’s daily functions, communication with others, self-esteem, and quality of life. UPMC Rehabilitation Institute’s facial nerve therapists have advanced training in treating facial paralysis and pain.

They’ll work with you to help you regain some or all of your facial movements and expressions. They do this through a personal and functional approach to care.

Other therapists

Stroke recovery differs for each person. You may see a number of other therapists along your inpatient and outpatient rehab journey. They may include:

  • A balance or vestibular therapist who can help treat and reduce any balance problems.
  • A dietitian who can help you avoid a second stroke. They do this by working with you on a diet that reduces high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and excess weight gain.
  • A neuropsychologist who can monitor and track your mental health, cognitive functions, attention span, and memory loss.
  • A social worker who can help you make decisions about rehab programs, living arrangements, insurance, and home support services.
  • A recreation therapist who can get you back to your normal hobbies and recreational activities.

For more information about outpatient therapy options after a stroke, call 1-888-723-4277.

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.