Low-tech exercise and stroke recovery

A recent U.S. study looked at the merits of low-tech home-based rehabilitation following a stroke versus rehabilitation in a facility. What they found is that the low-tech approach may be just as effective when it comes to helping people walk again.

While there may be merit to having rehabilitation or physiotherapy treatment at home, inpatient or outpatient therapy in a hospital may still be required, and every situation needs to be individually assessed.

When someone who has had a stroke is having a problem with routine activities or mobility at home, having a therapist visit to assess the situation can be very helpful. For example, learning how to transfer from the couch to a wheelchair or how to be safe in the bathroom can be easier when they’re done in the person’s own home. However, until a person is able to manage safely at home, hospital rehabilitation is required.

“I encourage my clients to be as active as possible once they are home,” says Tina Wells-Rowsell, a physiotherapist in Baycrest’s outpatient stroke clinic. “I recommend that they be involved in their daily activities such as dressing, preparing food, emptying the dishwasher or going for a walk. Typically, the more you do, the more energy you have. It doesn’t have to be exercise per se. Doing functional activities helps to build muscle strength and gives a sense of accomplishment and independence.”

Community re-integration is important
“It is also important to keep up your activity level and do your home exercises once rehab is finished to prevent functional decline,” notes Wells-Rowsell. Prior to discharge, when appropriate, therapists provide home exercise programs or recommend programs in the community where clients can exercise in a group setting.

Getting out of the house and back into the community is important. Wells-Rowsell recalls one client who wanted to volunteer at the food bank following his stroke. “I trained him how to safely put items in boxes, properly lift and walk around while carrying heavy things. These all require balance and strength. It’s important to teach functional tasks, not exclusively fitness training.”

“We are trying to improve people’s quality of life. Get them out and doing things. These are real, measurable goals,” adds Wells-Roswell.

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