How To Make The Most Out Of Your Stroke Recovery: 5 Ways To Maximize Your Progress
Experiencing a stroke is devastating.
One minute you’re fine and the next you’re experiencing a terrifying medical emergency.
Adjusting to life after a stroke is difficult. Focusing on your recovery is crucial to get back to where you were before this happened.
In the United States, 795,000 people have a stroke every year and it’s the leading cause of long-term disability.1
For years, the medical community thought a person had 3-6 months to recover from a stroke. Now, they’re realizing that neuroplasticity allows the brain to regain function even after that time.
Neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change and adapt, allows your brain to recover for a longer period of time. While you might not regain all abilities after a stroke, recovery is possible.2
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Let’s talk about how you can make the most of your stroke recovery.
Factors That Impact Stroke Recovery
First, let’s talk about a few things that can impact stroke recovery. While this list isn’t comprehensive, it’s important to know there are many factors that affect recovery. Here are a few of the most common ones.
Type of stroke
Many people don’t know this but there are actually two different types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic.3
The most common stroke, the ischemic stroke, is when a small piece of plaque or a blood clot blocks blood flow to your brain and damages the area around it.
A hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel in your brain ruptures, leaking blood into other parts of your brain.
The type of stroke and how much damage occurs definitely play a role in stroke recovery.
The severity of the stroke
Some strokes are mild while others are very severe. How severe a stroke is can depend on the location of the stroke, the size of the blockage and the amount of time the blockage was there. For hemorrhagic strokes, how large the vessel rupture plays a role in how severe a stroke is.2
How quickly you receive medical treatment
The American Heart Association, (AHA) says, “time is brain” for a reason.4 The quicker you receive medical attention for your stroke, the better your recovery will be.
Age and health prior to stroke
Generally speaking, a younger, healthier person will bounce back from a stroke easier. But every person is different. How well you’ve managed your health prior to stroke can have a positive impact on your recovery.
Not every person who had a stroke needs inpatient rehab. If rehab is recommended, it does significantly speed up your recovery. Everyone is affected by stroke differently, so getting the right therapies is essential to make the most out of your recovery.
The first few months is when you’ll see the most progress but that’s not to say rehabilitation can’t continue long after the initial stroke occurred.2
The brain can easily adapt to new changes and sometimes other parts of the brain take over, compensating for the damaged areas.
Stroke recovery can be long and complex so let’s talk about how you can maximize your progress.
5 Ways You Can Make The Most Out Of Your Stroke Recovery
1.) Set realistic expectations
You may need to reevaluate and reconsider what recovery means to you. Ask your providers about your prognosis. Although nobody can say for sure how your recovery will be, they can give you an idea of what they think your level of functioning will be. You may need to adjust your expectations and in some cases, learn to live with a new normal.
2.) Focus on what you can control
The symptoms you face after a stroke are completely out of your control. Your brain and your body have a disconnect. Things that were easy to do before, take extra time. Or maybe parts of your body don’t work right now. When you’re feeling out of control try to focus on what you can control, such as your motivation and dedication to rehab. Attitude and hard work really does go a long way.
3.) Addressing your emotions after a stroke
Depression, anger, and other emotional changes are extremely common. Depression in the general population is around 5% but that rate skyrockets to 18% in stroke survivors.5 It’s ok to ask for help.
You might be emotionally devastated that your life has changed. Or maybe your brain is going through physical changes causing mood swings. Addressing it so it doesn’t interfere with your recovery can really make a difference.
4.) Keep up with therapies
If needed, continue OT, PT, and speech therapy after rehab. People are being discharged earlier now, continuing recovery at home. Finishing recovery at home can be very beneficial. Consider getting in-home therapies or continuing with outpatient treatment to continue your progress.
5.) Embrace new technology
Stroke rehab is on the cutting edge of new technology and it’s only going to get better. If it’s available to you, embrace the new technology that can aid in your rehab. Some hospitals have clinical driving simulators that help you learn to drive again.6Others use noninvasive brain stimulation to help your brain regain function.7All kinds of technology are emerging as a part of stroke rehab and recovery.
At the moment, many of these new technologies are only accessible at large, academic hospitals. If you’re fortunate enough to have access to one of these, consider trying it. It’s possible it will help your recovery in a way traditional therapy can’t.
Let’s talk about a technology that’s a little easier to use, and more accessible –neurofeedback. Although it’s not a treatment for stroke, neurofeedback can be used for brain optimization and to promote an overall healthy lifestyle.
What Is Neurofeedback?
In your stroke recovery, you had many doctors and nurses talk to you about making long-term, healthy lifestyle changes to prevent another stroke. Some people find neurofeedback helps to make these changes.
Here at Whole Family Neurofeedback, we use NeurOptimal®, an easy-to-use, non-linear neurofeedback system that can be done at home. Remember, if you have questions about starting something new, consult your healthcare provider.
Before we talk about how neurofeedback helps promote healthy lifestyle changes and brain optimization, let’s talk about the two different types of neurofeedback.
Linear neurofeedback was the first neurofeedback discovered. This type of neurofeedback needs to be provided by a professional with extensive training and requires you to have a medical diagnosis to start. The provider maps your brain’s electrical activity and compares it to typical or standard brain function. The providers then use standard protocols to try to shift your brain back to a “normal” or “healthier” brain pattern. Protocols are adjusted throughout your sessions, so the skills of the clinician providing the neurofeedback are crucial.8
Because linear neurofeedback is treatment based, we highly recommend talking to your healthcare provider before starting.
NeurOptimal® is an advanced brain training system that anyone can use – no extensive training or brain mapping is required. What’s great about non-linear neurofeedback is that it doesn’t tell your brain what it needs to do. There is no electrical activity or stimulation going into your brain. Instead, the neurofeedback machine detects when your brain is about to shift in an undesirable way for you, allowing your brain to self-correct.
You simply hook the sensors up to your head and ears while you listen to music or watch a movie. While you do this, the system is getting information about your brain’s electrical pattern. Once it detects turbulence, there will be a brief pause in what you’re listening to.
These pauses bring your awareness back to the present moment and give your brain a chance to self-correct. Because the neurofeedback device is giving your brain information about itself, every person’s experience with NeurOptimal® is unique to them.
Stroke Recovery: Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes
While NeurOptimal® isn’t a treatment for stroke, it helps promote an overall healthy lifestyle. Making health choices and healthy lifestyle changes is extremely important in stroke recovery.
- Help manage stress
- Help improve mental acuity and focus
- Promote healthy sleep habits
- Help your brain work more efficiently
- Enhance learning capacity
- Help you feel less stressed, more confident, and more certain
- Help you become more flexible and resilient, which makes coping with what you’re dealing with so much easier
NeurOptimal® is an FDA-designated general wellness product. It helps train your brain to work at its own optimal state.
There are many ways to maximize your progress in your stroke recovery.
Making healthy lifestyle changes helps.
If you want to know if NeurOptimal® is right for you, fill out our contact form here or call us at 303-222-5118. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have!
- CDC Stroke Facts.
- 9 Ways To Maximize Progress When Recovering From A Stroke. Brain & Life Magazine.
- Stroke. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
- Time Is Brain–Quantified. American Heart Association.
- Association Between Depression and Physical Conditions Requiring Hospitalization. JAMA Psychiatry. 2023.
- Albany Medical Center Driving Rehab Program.
- Johns Hopkins noninvasive neurostimulator
- Neurofeedback: A Comprehensive Review. Basic and Clinical Neuroscience. 2016.
Disclaimer: This site contains information on general health and wellness topics. Please note that Neuroptimal® has been designated a general wellness product by the FDA. The information on this site or in any linked materials should not be construed as medical advice. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations by your physician.