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Brain Exercises for Stroke Recovery

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted or reduced. This prevents the brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cells to die within minutes. A stroke is not always fatal, but patients may be disabled, paralyzed, or suffer from memory loss due to a stroke. As a result, rehabilitation and recovery after a stroke include a range of post-stroke exercises targeting various body parts. 

The Importance of Exercises for Stroke Patients

Taking up some kind of hobby or working on activities that activate the brain is highly crucial for post-stroke recovery. These activities can help stroke patients restore and strengthen their cognitive abilities while enhancing their quality of life. There is a range of exercises that stroke patients can do. These have been discussed below. 

Cognitive exercises 

Stroke patients who experience diminished thinking or poor memory post-stroke may benefit significantly from cognitive exercises. Cognitive exercises help exercise the brain, sharpening memory and thinking. But the key here is consistency in practice – consistency is crucial for neuroplasticity which is how the brain heals after a stroke event. Neuroplasticity allows the brain to rest, recuperate and heal by triggering the brain to form new neural networks and rewire itself to heal from damage. 

Neural pathways are formed and strengthened based on patterns that are repeatedly practiced which is why it is recommended to do one exercise frequently. The stimulation helps review the brain and improve those skills.

Memory games for stroke victims, amongst other ones, are a key way in which stroke survivors can regain their cognitive skills. There is a range of games that stroke victims can play, including:

  1. Words and Number Puzzles: 

Games like Sudoku, word search, and crossword puzzles are independent activities that stimulate the brain and help stroke survivors improve their memory and problem-solving skills. Crosswords are familiar enough, but Sudoku is a less commonly played game – it is challenging and effective. 

  1. Card Games: 

Card games enhance concentration and memory. A simple game that can be played is called ‘Memory,’ which involves placing a deck of cards facedown on a table. The player starts the game by selecting a pair of cards to find the ones that match. The idea is to remember the images on the faces of cards and match them based on memory. Once you have matched all cards, the game is over. It can be a good idea to use cards made explicitly for a matching game with words and images written on them. You can also make a personalized deck of cards with household items or pictures of the stroke survivor’s loved ones. 

  1. Scrabble: 

Scrabble is a board game that requires a lot of stroke patients. It needs high-level thinking and problem-solving skills while enhancing memory skills as the letters in a group of tiles jog the patient’s memory and bring words they have learned in the past to mind. It is a good idea to start out simply by encouraging your loved ones to try simple things like spelling out their name or the name of their dog or city. An additional bonus is improving fine motor skills since the players must pick up a tile and place it on the board that holds all the letters. 

  1. Alphabetising sentences: 

This game is for analytical reasoning as well as cognition stimulation. You begin with a pen, paper, and some reading material. Choose a sentence, write it down, and re-write the words alphabetically. Sequencing is a good activity for the brain.

Physical exercises for stroke recovery

Doing basic daily tasks, such as getting dressed or self-feeding, can become difficult after a stroke. It can be overwhelming and hard for an able-bodied person to experience a disability. However, stroke recovery exercises can help the patient regain control and function of their body with time and consistency. 

Sometimes people face decreased strength and dexterity in their hands after the stroke, making it difficult to hold and release objects. Regaining the use of the hand after a stroke is a common goal, and it can be achieved through rehab. However, it is crucial to remember that sometimes recovery does not always bring back complete control and use of the hands, making these tasks a big challenge. 

You can perform a range of exercises for hand recovery using therapeutic balls and putty. 

  1. Ball grip: hold the ball grip tightly in the palm. Squeeze the ball, hold it and relax your grip. Repeat the exercise ten times for two sets. 

  2. Thumb extension: hold the ball between a bent thumb and two extended fingers of the same hand. Extend the thumb and straighten it to roll the ball. Repeat the movement for two sets, ten times through. 

  3. Pinching: place the ball between the thumb and the index and middle fingers. Squeeze the ball, hold it there and relax it. Repeat the exercise ten times for two sets. 

  4. Side squeezing: put the ball between two fingers, squeeze them together, and hold and relax them. Go through the movement ten times for two sets.

  5. Extension: place the ball on a flat surface, touching the tips of the fingers on the ball. Roll the ball outwards on the table. Repeat the movement ten times for two sets. 

  6. Scissor spread: using a therapeutic putty, wrap it around the two fingers and try to spread the fingers apart. Repeat the movement for two sets, ten times for each set. 

  7. Thumb press: placing the putty in the palm of your hand, press into it with the thumb pushing it slightly towards the base of the pinky finger. Repeat the movement ten times for two sets. 

  8. Thumb extension: bend the thumb, loop the putty around it, and try to straighten the thumb in a mock ‘thumbs up’ gesture. Repeat ten times for two sets. 

  9. Thumb pinch strengthening: squeeze and hold the putty between the thumb and the side of the index finger. Go through the movement ten times for two sets. 

Other exercises for stroke recovery patients

You can also target other body parts with a range of exercises to strengthen and revitalize them. Other recommended activities for stroke patients include: 

  1. Shoulder openers: 

As the name suggests, this exercise focuses on the shoulders. Using light weights or light water bottles that can be gripped easily, hold your arms out to the side, bending the elbows at 90 degrees. Using slow controlled movement, open your arms out to the sides and bring them back to the starting stance. This movement will improve the range of motion and strength of the shoulders. 

  1. Table towel slides: 

Place a folded towel on a table in front of you. Put your weak hand on the towel and the stronger one on top of it. Slide the towel away and towards you using the stronger hand to push and pull. You can also go in circles on the table. The movement will strengthen and stabilize the shoulders and arms muscles

  1. Hip Abduction: 

Sit on the edge of a chair. Tighten your abs and straighten one knee with toes pointed towards the ceiling. Then slowly move the foot out towards the side. Repeat the movement on the other side. 

If you’re looking for post-stroke rehabilitation at home, then look no further than NeuroX. NeuroX provides affordable psychiatric and neurology care right at your doorstep and can provide you with the medical and emotional support you require. Head over to NeuroX right now to get started and get online consultations from a board-certified neurologist of your choice within 24-48 hours.

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