How Stroke Can Affect Your Mobility

Mobility impairments, such as paralysis and spasticity, are among the most noteworthy effects of a stroke. Effective stroke rehabilitation can limit these effects, and stroke survivors can also explore adaptive equipment to improve their ability to perform their daily activities despite limitations that may remain.

Paralysis and Spasticity

Strokes may interfere with communication between your brain and your muscles. This situation can result in paralysis for a stroke survivor. Paralysis, or the inability to move muscles voluntarily, can be as mild as foot drop to as severe as full limb paralysis and can be a significant obstacle to resuming normal activities post-stroke. Spasticity is another common effect of stroke It results in rigidity or stiffness in the muscles. Symptoms may include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Decreased functioning in the affected muscles
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Bent elbow pressed against the chest with curled fingers
  • Curled toes

Paralysis And Spasticity Treatment Options

Treatment options for paralysis and spasticity will depend on the severity of the issue. For paralysis, interventions may include

  • Passive exercises that a physical or occupational therapist performs on the stroke survivor
  • Electrical stimulation that re-establishes the communication channels between your brain and your muscles
  • Visualizating stroke rehabilitation exercises, which can trick your brain into thinking you’re moving your own muscles

Targeted treatments for spasticity may include:

  • Specialized exercises and stretching to reduce muscle shortening
  • Botox injections to block the affected nerves
  • Oral medications to relax the nerves
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Braces, which are typically only used for mild to moderate elbow or wrist spasticity
  • Surgery that targets the damaged nerves causing spasticity
  • Baclofen pump to relax the nerves, which may be used for patients who were unable to tolerate other treatments

As with all stroke rehabilitation, the goal is to leverage neuroplasticity and rewire the brain to restore maximum functioning. Also, as in all stroke cases, it’s essential to begin your stroke rehabilitation to reverse paralysis and/or spasticity as quickly as possible in order to get the best results.

How To Manage Paralysis And Spasticity

While you are going through stroke rehabilitation specifically for paralysis or spasticity, you may need to identify interim solutions to help you manage daily activities as you make progress in your therapy. This may involve adaptive equipment, such as:

  • Stroke orthotics or braces to increase strength and movement
  • Walkers or wheelchairs for mobility aids
  • Home modification equipment, such as shower grab bars or raised toilet seats to assist with activities of daily living

You may also need to consider pacing your activities to make them more manageable or getting assistance from others. These solutions often are temporary until you achieve your therapy goals. Physical and occupational therapy and adaptive equipment can help to overcome any post-stroke mobility impairments. Consult with your care team to see what techniques, tools and strategies might be most beneficial to you.