Maintaining functional movement after a stroke

Having a finishing line to cross for stroke rehabilitation would be ideal, but the reality is only 10% of people recover fully from a stroke.
For the majority, rehabilitation will be considered complete when they have regained as many of their abilities as possible. For some, this will take weeks; for others, it will take months, some even years.

What is functional movement training?

Functional movement is the movement required to perform everyday tasks, from putting your shoes on to reaching the cupboard’s top shelf. From getting out of an armchair to climbing the stairs to getting in and out of a wheelchair.

It’s what we need to be able to do to maintain our mobility and independence for as long as we can.
For someone who’s had a stroke, the functional movement might be different to what it was before. Adaptions may have been needed to achieve some tasks.

Why is a post-rehabilitation maintenance programme important?

Most people will have imbalances and weaknesses that persist after their stroke, making a functional movement maintenance programme post-rehabilitation so important.

Imbalances in strength, tight muscles and lack of exercise are likely to lead to a person altering their movements to compensate for this. The poor biomechanics often result in pain in the muscles and joints that must pick up the extra load. The pain makes them reluctant or unable to move, which in turn worsens the original problem: the less they move, the weaker weak muscles become, the tighter tight muscles become and the greater the imbalance between the sides becomes.

This has a knock-on effect on balance and self-confidence. This can be especially problematic for older patients, as they become more isolated and more likely to suffer a fall.

What does post-rehabilitation maintenance involve?

Avoiding poor biomechanics consists of a strength training programme focused on functional movement – strengthening all the muscles needed to perform tasks like standing up, sitting down, or shifting weight from a bed to a wheelchair. But strength training alone isn’t enough; the programme will also include exercises to maintain flexibility of joints and muscles and improve balance.

Why use a physio when you can just do it on your own?

For some people, an at-home maintenance programme that they do on their own will be enough to maintain functional movement. But others may need help performing some of the exercises. Often a carer can help, but a physio may be better suited in some cases.

A physiotherapist can pick up on any imbalances and tightness and treat them early before they cause problems. We are also excellent motivators for those who can do the exercises independently but benefit from regular contact and encouragement.

Have any questions about post-stroke rehabilitation maintenance programmes?

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