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Stroke Rehabilitation

- Summary
- About stroke rehabilitation
- Damage requiring rehabilitation
- People who help
- How rehabilitation unfolds
- Lifestyle considerations
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Dongwoo John Chang, M.D.


Stroke rehabilitation is a method of treatment that helps stroke patients to relearn basic skills lost after a stroke. Each year, more than 700,000 people in the United States experience a stroke, and two-thirds of those people eventually require rehabilitation, according to the National Institutes of Health.


During a stroke, many patients experience damage to the brain that affects the ability to perform physical and cognitive functions. Rehabilitation helps patients with stroke-related brain damage to learn new ways of performing basic skills such as communicating, dressing, eating and walking. Rehabilitation also can increase a patient’s endurance, flexibility, balance, coordination and strength.

A stroke can have a wide array of effects on a person’s mental and physical abilities. These include:

  • Paralysis or problems controlling movement
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Problems using or understanding language (aphasia)
  • Problems with thinking and memory
  • Emotional problems (e.g., depression)

Following a stroke, several different types of medical professionals may help patients to regain as much of their normal abilities as possible. A patient’s primary physician and other specialist physicians such as neurologists have the leading role in planning a patient’s post-stroke care. Other medical professionals involved in rehabilitation include nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and recreational therapists.

Typically, rehabilitation efforts begin within 24 to 48 hours following a stroke. In this initial period, patients are asked to change positions frequently while in their hospital bed and to perform basic range-of-motion exercises.

Once patients are discharged from the hospital, they will either return home or enter some type of inpatient medical facility depending on the extent of brain damage from the stroke. Patients are likely to undergo stroke rehabilitation for an extended period of time, although the most significant improvements are typically noticed during the first six months of therapy.

Patients who successfully complete stroke rehabilitation are urged to make certain lifestyle changes that will reduce their risk of experiencing a second stroke. These include controlling certain diseases that can cause stroke, eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise and not smoking.

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Review Date: 06-11-2007

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