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21 Useful Post-Stroke Exercises to Improve Mobility at Home
Stroke exercise can help patients regain mobility and strength in the body.
In the early stages of stroke recovery, patients often exercise with the help of a team of experts. Both physical and occupational therapists are a great asset to your recovery.
After discharge from inpatient rehabilitation, the team of experts is no longer available. To keep improving, stroke survivors must follow a consistent home exercise program.
The following exercises are great additions to your home rehabilitation program. Be sure to check with your therapist before trying new exercises.
How to adapt rehab exercises to your skill level
Before we start, it is important to know how to tailor your home rehab exercises to suit your level of ability.
Stroke survivors with paralysis may need to take a step back and first passive exercises carry out. That means you need to help your affected side with the movement.
Therapist supporting the arm through passive movement
Passive exercise helps patients recover from paralysis by stimulating neuroplasticity. If you are unfamiliar with this word, understanding this word should be your top priority.
Neuroplasticity is the mechanism the brain uses to rewire and heal itself after an injury. It enables your brain to restore lost skills such as walking and using the arm.
While it may take time and results may be slow, passive exercise will help increase your chances of recovering from stroke paralysis.
Stroke survivors who already have exercise and want to keep improving can continue with active exercise. This means that you can do the movement yourself without assistance
Stroke patient who independently performs active movements
The most important thing to focus on is that you are doing your stroke rehab exercises with high repetitions to stimulate the brain. The more you deal with neuroplasticity, the more you can improve your mobility.
You will see faster results if you practice every day instead of once a week. The brain needs constant stimulation to rebuild and strengthen new neural connections.
Still, we should deal with the full body punching exercises. First off are the legs.
Post-stroke exercises for legs
Leg exercises for stroke patients can help improve your gait and balance. Exercising your legs can also help reduce your risk of falling, which is a priority for stroke patients.
1. Knee extensions
From the sitting position, extend your left leg until it is parallel to the floor. Avoid blocking your knee. Then slowly bring your foot back to the ground.
Repeat the process on the right leg, alternating back and forth between the legs for a total of 20 reps (10 on each leg).
2. Sitting marching
From a sitting position, lift the affected leg into your chest, trying to maintain a controlled movement.
Then put your foot back on the ground. Repeat the process on the other leg, alternately moving back and forth for a total of 10 reps.
3. Ankle dorsiflexion
Stroke patients struggling with foot drops (difficulty dorsiflexion) will benefit greatly from this particular stroke exercise.
Start with the affected leg that is still crossed over the other leg. Then, bend your foot back toward the shin - a movement known as dorsiflexion. If you cannot do this, use your hand to assist your foot with the movement (passive movement exercise).
Repeat this exercise 10 times.
Show all leg exercises for stroke patients »
Stroke exercises for balance and core
The balance exercises help to improve core stability and gait while reducing the risk of falling.
4. Trunk twist (twists)
This particular stroke exercise is helpful for all levels of impairment.
Start by sitting down, then place your right hand on the outside of your left thigh. Then, with your back straight, use your arm to gently rotate your torso to the left.
Remember to initiate the movement from the core, not the arms. Also, don't twist yourself to the point of pain. Move gently.
Return to the center and complete this torso rotation 15 times.
5. Knees to the chest
Proceed to the next two stroke recovery exercises with caution. If your lower back lifts off the floor, skip this movement until you are ready.
From a comfortable lying position, bring your right leg into your chest. At the top, give your core pressure, then bring your leg back down.
Focus on engaging your core in this movement instead of the leg. Repeat the exercise a total of 10 times with each leg.
6. Tap your toes
While lying on your back, lift your legs up and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.
From there, bring your left leg down and gently tap the floor with your left foot. Then bring your leg back up using your core muscles.
Maintain a 90 degree bend in the knee all the time. Repeat the exercise 10 times for each leg while keeping your core as tight as possible.
Show all core / core exercises for stroke patients »
Stroke Exercises for Arms
The stroke arm exercises will help you get used to the activities of daily living, such as dressing and cooking.
7. Tabletop circular motion
Tie your fingers together and wrap both hands around a water bottle. Then make large circular movements. You can use your unaffected arm to guide the affected arm. Make 10 slow, controlled circles.
8. Unweighted bicep curls
Start with your elbow on a table with your arm bent 90 degrees. Then curve your arm up a little and then let it go down a little again. Slowly repeat this 10 times.
The upward movement activates your biceps and the downward movement activates your triceps. Both are equally important, so focus on them right away.
9. Open arm movement
Hold a water bottle with the affected hand and keep your elbows taped to the sides. Then open your arms at a 90 degree angle so that the forearms come out sideways.
Bring your arms back to the center and slowly repeat 10 times.
Show all arm exercises for stroke patients »
Stroke exercises for shoulders and upper extremities
Shoulder rehab exercises after a stroke can help improve and prevent painful conditions such as shoulder subluxation and frozen shoulder.
The shoulder is a delicate joint that is prone to injury, so great care should be taken during these exercises to avoid pain.
Also, try not to pull your shoulder up during these stroke exercises. If you can't help it, that's fine - just try your best every time. This is called synergistic movement, and it decreases as your range of motion improves with these exercises!
10. Lean back to bear weight
While sitting, gently support yourself on your affected arm, about a foot away from your body. Then gently lean into it. You should feel a slight stretch on the affected side.
When it feels good, hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then return to the center. Repeat on the other side for a total of 3 sets.
If the stretch doesn't feel good, stop the stretch immediately.
11. Lateral sliding movement of the table top
Place a water bottle on a table and slide it across the table with the back of your affected wrist. Try as best you can to avoid walking up your shoulder.
When the bottle reaches the other side of the table, hook the front of your wrist around the bottle and slide it back.
Repeat this 5 times.
12. Forward pushing motion
Next, place the bottle near you, then slide it straight forward with the affected arm. Keep your forearm on the table and try to resist the shoulder wandering. Repeat this 5 times.
Show all shoulder exercises for stroke patients »
Stroke exercises for wrists, hands and fingers
Rehabilitation exercises for the hands and fingers should not be neglected, as fine motor skills often take the longest to recover after a stroke.
13. Stretching the surface of the hand
For a gentle rehab exercise, simply stretch your hand open over a tabletop, your thigh, or an exercise ball. This is especially useful if you're fighting with a clenched hand after a stroke.
14. Flexion of the wrist
Place your elbow on a table, and then use the unaffected hand to extend the affected hand at the wrist. Stretch yourself back and then forward. Do this movement slowly for a total of 5 repetitions.
15. Lateral movement of the wrist
Next, place your affected hand palm down on the table. Then, with your unaffected hand, slide your hand to the left and then to the right. Focus on initiating the movement from your wrist only. Repeat slowly for a total of 10 reps.
16. Wrist curl
This exercise is similar to a biceps curl, but for your wrist. Grab the water bottle that is still in your affected hand and prop your arm with the unaffected hand. Let your wrist extend down, then roll your wrist up. Repeat this 10 times.
17. Rolling hand gesture
Place a water bottle in the affected hand, then curl your fingers to grab the water bottle. Then let go of the handle. Repeat this a total of 10 times.
18.Pen turning (advanced)
Hand exercises can be difficult for stroke patients due to impaired fine motor skills. Over the weeks, your hand spasticity should decrease and, as a result, your mobility should increase.
When you're ready, try these advanced stroke exercises by twisting a pencil with your affected hand. This can be a difficult move so keep going when you're ready.
Show all hand exercises for stroke patients »
Stroke exercises for paralysis
To recover from paralysis after a stroke (hemiplegia), you need to be passive. That means you need to help your affected limb move, either with the help of a caregiver or with the help of your unaffected side.
You can turn any of the above exercises into paralysis exercises by practicing them passively.
Below are stroke exercises that are especially helpful for post-stroke paralysis.
19.Palm up and down (hands)
Place your hand palm up on a table top. Then use your unaffected hand to tilt your palm down. Repeat the process back and forth. Palm up, palm down. Repeat this a total of 10 times.
20. Stick extension (arm)
Place your affected hand on a stick with the unaffected hand on top. Then slowly lean on the stick. You should feel a gentle stretch through the affected arm. Hold it for 3 seconds, then return to the center. Repeat this 5 times.
21. Recumbent rotation (core)
You may need the help of a caregiver to do this stroke paralysis exercise.
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Then, drop your knees to the right and twist your truck to lower your legs. Then raise your knees again and repeat the exercise on the other side.
See More Stroke Paralysis Exercises »
Create your stroke rehab exercise program
Pick some exercises that target the muscles that you want to improve and add them to your daily stroke exercise program.
Consistency and repetition is key to rewiring the brain. Try to practice at least 20 repetitions of each exercise.
If you're struggling to stay motivated, many stroke patients have had great results using high-tech rehab exercise equipment like Flint Rehab's FitMi.
The FitMi home exercise program motivates users to achieve 23 times more repetitions than a traditional therapy session because it is more fun and more fun.
This high repetition rate helps stroke survivors get faster results and get back to walking, driving, and cooking.
Physical activity is the key to recovery. We hope this has inspired you to get moving.
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