Rehabilitation for Stroke

by Martin Rutherford, D.C.

Strokes, also known as cerebrovascular accidents, are one of the leading causes of death and disability in this country, with approximately 795,000 individuals suffering from a stroke each year.  These tragic and life altering events result from a disruption of appropriate amounts of blood flow to areas of the brain.  There are numerous warning signs of an impending stroke, some of them including sudden confusion, trouble speaking, trouble understanding, numbness or weakness of the face or part of the body, difficulty walking, dizziness, lack of balance or coordination, and severe headache without a definite cause.  If you or a loved one ever experiences one or more of these symptoms, urgent and immediate evaluation at an emergency room can be a life saving event.  Many individuals often discount the symptoms of a stroke as just not feeling well, or they do not want to bother anyone by being examined.  Unfortunately, on the contrary these individuals often do not realize the importance of these symptoms and their potential life altering impact.  Therefore, never hesitate for yourself or a loved one to go to an emergency room if experiencing the warning signs of a stroke, as it could save your life.  

Emergency room physicians and Medical Neurologists specialize in identifying and treating the area of the brain affected by a stroke.  In fact there are Medical Neurologists whose entire practice is dedicated to treating patients with cerebrovascular accidents.  Prompt evaluation and treatment by these health care professionals saves lives.  Some stroke victims come away without any permanent side effects, while others are left with significant disabilities, some of which include paralysis, weakness, difficulty walking, difficulties speaking and understanding verbal communication.  Once a patient is cleared as being stable by their Medical Neurologist, they will often be discharged to a rehabilitation program.

In the past, stroke rehabilitation focused on showing the stroke victim strategies and coping mechanisms for using their unaffected limbs and uninvolved areas of their body.  With this rehabilitation, the patient would be able to get through their day to day lives with their handicaps and disabilities.  However, the latest research regarding the brain has opened up an entirely new paradigm regarding rehabilitation for not only victims of strokes, but also other patients who suffered from brain damage as a result of such things as traumatic brain injury, subdural hematoma’s, and tumors (after they were taken out).  This new paradigm is termed neuroplasticity.  Through neuroplasticity, neuroscience researchers have demonstrated the ability of the brain to create new connections and even grow new brain cells, termed neurons, in certain areas of the brain.  With this knowledge, new therapies have been created, targeted at the affected area of brain injury, to help strengthen the damaged area and make it stronger.  With this being said, there can be limitations, in that if areas of the brain are dead as a result of a brain injury from a stroke, then odds are that the function in this area of the brain is not coming back.  However, the areas surrounding dead areas of neurologic tissue are often working, but not working well because of the dead neuron’s lack of activity.  It is with these cells that not only their function can return, but also they can in certain circumstances assume the function of their neighboring cells.  For the stroke patient this translates into a more complete recovery.

The chiropractic neurology approach to treating patients who have incurred strokes is to use neuroplasticity to the patient’s advantage.  Some of the new, non-drug patient specific therapies used include specific exercises on one side of the body, mirror therapy, and sensory motor exercises designed to target areas of the brain that are still able to recover their function.  With this exciting field, patients are learning that there are aspects of their disability which can be restored, thus enhancing the abilities of the patient to perform their normal daily activities.

In addition, the functional metabolic approach promotes a functional perspective in evaluating an individual’s laboratory markers, which consists of using more specific laboratory normal values to evaluate a patient’s potential for recovery.  The medical profession is more than competent in their efforts to create strategies that identify individuals who are more likely to suffer from a vascular accident, such as a stroke.  The functional metabolic approach attempts to take it one step further by utilizing even more stringent normal parameters for laboratory markers.  With this, patterns or trends in the patient’s laboratory work may become clear as to why an individual may have developed or be developing atherosclerosis, which could have lead to the stroke.  By evaluating laboratory tests in this fashion, attempts are made to identify what may have been the underlying cause of the stroke and what natural non-drug steps can be taken to enhance patient recovery and prevent further reoccurrence.  

If you or someone you know has suffered from a stroke, and have been discharged into a rehabilitation program, getting evaluated from a neurological and metabolic perspective utilizing these cutting edge therapies should be your first step.  To schedule a free consultation with one of our doctors to go over your case and see if you may be a candidate for our care give us a call at 775-329-4402.

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