How to Recover Arm Function after Stroke


After a stroke, arm muscles and nerves are often unable to receive messages that are necessary for movement and object manipulation. Stroke survivors may face symptoms such as arm weakness, lack of coordination, a change in muscle tone, and a variety of other concerns such as edema, discomfort, and stiffness, to name a few. While this reality can create a number of difficulties for stroke survivors, as well as emotionally draining family members and caregivers who want to help, it’s vital to realize that there are possibilities for improvement.

These lost neuronal connections between the mind and arms can be repaired with persistent therapy and focused practice. It’s crucial to remember that a strong rehabilitation team and support system can assist stroke survivors in reestablishing connections that were lost after the stroke.

Stretching Arm Exercises After a Stroke


Stretching is very helpful after a stroke to help reduce spasticity. Stretching should be utilized as a foundation, not as a replacement for drugs. Patients who are thorough about their care may typically cope with significant spasticity.

Range-of-motion stretches will be taught to you by your therapist. Passive workouts, which entail using your other arm to generate the forces required to move the crippled arm, can help prevent muscle shortening and joint stiffness.

The core of spasticity self-management is stretching the arm with the opposite arm. You can also stretch the thumb and all of the fingers on the affected hand with the unaffected hand.

Stretching will be taught to you by your therapist, but here are some general guidelines:

  • At least three times a day, move the arm through its full range of motion.
  • Gently stretch tighter muscles until they are slightly uncomfortable
  • then hold for at least 60 seconds.

Although these stretches are beneficial in preventing stiffness and other issues, they do not address the underlying problem of arms control.

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Functional Arm Exercises After a Stroke

After a stroke, it is beneficial to use the arm to execute chores on a regular basis. Repetitive practice, similar to learning scales on a musical instrument, is increasingly considered essential for stroke rehabilitation.

Constraint-induced movement therapy is one method for increasing the use of the afflicted arm (CIMT). It entails putting a mitt on the unaffected hand and completing chores over and over with the affected arm for several hours each day.

This type of frequent “forced usage” of the hand and fingers is causing the brain to restructure to help move the hand, according to research. This is the first indication of the brain’s plasticity in response to rigorous therapy after a stroke.

These are some examples of daily activities to try:

  • Wrap your fingers around the handle of a refrigerator door. Alternatively, wrap your fingers around a drawer handle. Close or open the door or drawer.
  • Carry a plastic shopping bag across the room in your affected hand. Put something light in the bag to practice.
  • Remove the laundry from the dryer and place it in a small bag.
  • Carry light objects with your upper and lower arms, supporting them against your body.
  • Place a soap dispenser in the palm of your hand. Then place it on a table and turn it over many times.
  • In the affected hand, put a tube of toothpaste. Squeeze it with your non-affected hand while manipulating the toothbrush.
  • Use your affected hand to turn on and off a light switch.

To avoid the nonuse cycle, it’s critical to maintain sensory messages flowing into the brain. Touching can provide sensory information that can help you recover faster. Additionally, participating in activities like these will assist you in gaining independence while you are rehabilitating. Using a bag to carry items to and from the refrigerator, for example, frees up your other arm to utilize with a cane if necessary.

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Arm-Strengthening Exercises After a Stroke

Strength training for the arm and hand after a stroke has been a source of debate in the past. Strengthening spastic muscles was thought to cause more harm than good. According to new studies, strengthening spastic muscles can potentially help to alleviate spasticity.

A recent evaluation of 13 trials found that strengthening hands and arms with tiny weights, resistance bands, and pulley weights may be done without increasing stiffness or discomfort in 517 stroke patients with mild to moderate disability of their arms.

Techniques for arm Strengthening

Other strategies, in addition to stretching, functional, and strengthening exercises, may aid in the recovery of arm function after a stroke. Some of these procedures and equipment are still being studied for their usefulness.

Active-passive bilateral therapy: The balance between the two sides of the brain is disrupted by a stroke. Bilateral active-passive therapy is executing a task with both the non-affected and affected hands working jointly. When paired with other therapies, it may help the two sides of the brain operate better together, restoring balance and possibly improving hand function.

BATRAC (bilateral arm training with rhythmic auditory cueing) is a type of bilateral therapy that may help the brain reorganize after a stroke. Participants are instructed to begin pushing or pulling on two T-bar handles using auditory signals. You can do this by utilizing both arms at the same time or one arm first, then the other.

Robotic devices: Robotic technologies help movement, allowing for more regular, measurable repetition than traditional therapy may provide. They have the potential to be a labor-saving gadget, even if they aren’t widely distributed.

Functional electrical stimulation: This method includes using an electrical current to stimulate nerve activity in stroke-affected limbs, thereby strengthening weak or spastic muscles. This technique may aid in the opening of a constricted hand. According to Stein, several gadgets are now commercially available and are becoming more extensively utilized, even in the house. They are not, however, currently covered by insurance.

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Brain stimulation: A therapy that can lower the activity of hyperactive neurons is magnetic or direct current stimulation of the healthy hemisphere of the brain. This could aid in the recovery of brain equilibrium following a stroke.

Biofeedback: Biofeedback, despite its lack of research, gives a sound or light signal that indicates whether muscles are functioning. This could aid by increasing muscle contraction awareness, which is impaired after a stroke. Relaxing muscles and coordinating hand movements may become easier with increased awareness.

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