A stroke occurs when a clot blocks blood flow to an area of the brain, resulting in death of brain cells and damage to the brain. This can result in a variety of symptoms. These can range from weakness and altered sensation to paralysis and complete loss of sensation. Physical therapists can help a stroke patient to learn or restore movement patterns essential for day-to-day activities. In addition to motion, a therapist can help improve muscle control, regain balance and stability and boost confidence. A therapist will also help a stroke patient avoid exercises and activities that can be potentially harmful, while creating a safe home environment conducive to rapid recovery.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month and many people think strokes only occur in the elderly population, however the number that occurs in the younger population is starting to rise. It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms and signs of a stroke in order to get the necessary treatment. The American Stroke Association teaches the acronym FAST to help:
- Face drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
- Arm weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech difﬁculty. Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
- Time to call 911. If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the ﬁrst symptoms appeared.
- American Stroke Association. Warning Signs. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms_UCM_308528_SubHomePage.jsp.