Basic Stroke Rehab Principles – How to drive Neuroplasticity
1. Use it or Lose it – any attempt to use the involved arm or leg will help with the process of re-training your brain. The more you don’t use your arm, the more your brain gets comfortable with not using your arm, and the harder it is to START using your arm! Some have called this “learned non-use.”
2. Progressive challenge – the difficulty of the exercise or task must be increased as your ability improves. In other words, keep challenging yourself! If it’s not difficult, you aren’t getting the most from your rehab time.
3. Specificity – If you want to recover the ability to open a door with your affected hand, then you should practice opening a door with your affected hand….or at least components of that task. In other words, your rehab exercises or activities should be specific to the tasks or abilities you want to recover. Spending hours each day on an arm pedaling machine will not necessarily help you recover the ability to open a door (although the general exercise and use of that arm will still be beneficial for you).
4. Repetition – it takes MANY repetitions of an activity or exercise to stimulate the neural re-wiring required for improvement. (Now read number 2 again….the repetitions must be challenging)
5. Intensity – a considerable amount of concentration should be involved. If you perform your entire rehab routine while paying more attention to your television than your affected arm, you are not driving neural re-wiring to any beneficial extent. Focus entirely on the task at hand, and don’t be afraid to give yourself rest breaks when you know that your concentration is fatigued.