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Rehabilitation Specialist Answers: Can you exercise healthily after a stroke or brain injury?

Rehabilitation Specialist Answers: Can you exercise healthily after a stroke or brain injury?

Can you train? Recovering after a stroke or brain injury?

– Health is a difficult concept, says Anna Nordström, a specialist in rehabilitation medicine at the Academic Hospital in Uppsala.

-I prefer to talk about regaining as much function and quality of life as possible. It can be affected by training. But we don’t know to what extent, because the brain is a very complex organ.

25,000 have a stroke every year

About 25,000 people have a stroke in Sweden every year. 6000 die. Among those infected, 85% suffer a stroke and 15% suffer a brain hemorrhage. How affected you are depends on the location and extent of the damage.

– Some manage well, we have good emergency medical care in Sweden and with initial treatment many can be helped, says Anna Nordström.


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It is important to start training as soon as possible after a stroke. The brain is changeable and in the event of an injury it reorganizes itself and finds alternative pathways. It allows stroke patients to relearn and regain lost functions.

– But it requires hard work. Patients need help training the right way, and doing appropriate exercises several hours a day.

Know the signs of a stroke

If the person suddenly starts behaving differently and you suspect they are having a stroke, take action ACOT test:

Face. Ask the person to smile. If one corner of the mouth hangs down – call 112.
K – body. Ask the person to raise their arms for ten seconds. If an arm falls off – call 112.
U – pronunciation. If a person speaks indistinctly or cannot find the right words – call 112.
T – time. Every second is vital. Don’t wait – call 112.

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The earlier treatment is started, the less harm there will be.

Source: Heart and Lung Foundation

Intensive and tailored rehabilitation

Many patients who receive professional help with intensive rehabilitation in the first six months after a stroke achieve significant improvement. After that period, the chronic phase occurs.

You often hear that it’s too late to train. Is this correct?

– It’s not too late yet. Early rehabilitation is crucial, but significant progress can be made even long after the first six months. Many of the changes depend on how much exercise you do and what’s right for you, says Anna Nordstrom, who researches the chronic phase.

The problem is that no patient is the same in terms of damage. So you cannot treat everyone the same way, but you must design a rehabilitation program for each individual. This makes it more difficult to conduct research.

Training in a stimulating environment has been proven to positively affect the brain’s neural pathways. If you train in a group, for example, you encourage each other.

– You are challenged and training becomes more fun and more effective.

Many stroke patients do not have the opportunity for intensive rehabilitation

In general care, not all stroke patients are given the opportunity for intensive rehabilitation. In addition, there are not enough staff.

– It is a big bottleneck in Swedish rehabilitation. We need more specially trained physical, occupational and speech therapists so that patients can receive quality guidance and adequate training hours.