Physical Therapy for Stroke Patients


When someone suffers a stroke, the brain is subject to a loss of oxygen, killing off vital brain cells. The cells damaged can often be muscle cells, rendering the brain’s ability to fully control or use specific muscles withered or sometimes useless. As a physical therapist, however, there are tips you can follow to help you treat stroke patients that are not too strenuous.

Stroke patients can suffer different trauma to different parts of their body. Whether they are having issues with their arms, hands, core, or legs, there are many exercises out there to help treat a stroke patient’s based on their needs.

Here are some head to toe exercises to help physical therapists treat stroke patients during their next session.

Head to Toe Exercises to Help Treat Stroke Patients

Arm Exercises

Shoulder Flex– Keeping the elbow straight, lift your arm out and in front of the body and up above the head. This helps work the deltoids, pectoral muscles, and biceps.

Elbow Extension– Start in a sitting position. Leaning slight forward, keep the elbow behind the body, then straighten the elbow and forearm into a line. Only move from the elbow down to the wrist and try not to rock when moving.

Shoulder Press– While seated, keep arms raised to the side at a 90-degree angle with wrists above the elbow. Press elbow towards ears to raise the hands over the head.

Hand Exercises

Wrist Extension and Flexion– Keep the forearm rested on a table with the hand resting off the edge. Move the hand up and down slowly, bending at the wrist. Repeat with the wrists facing up and down.

Hand Ball Exercises– Using a hand therapy ball, use the fingers and thumb to press into and roll the ball around in different positions. This will help regain coordination.

Hand Activities– Another way to regain coordination and precision with finger and grip is to take part in everyday hand activities. This can include pinching clothespins, stacking quarters, and putting together a puzzle.

Abdominal Exercises

Rotating Seated Twists– Similar to a Russian Twist, these are done seated in a chair. Keeping opposite hand to opposite thigh, use the arm to help twist the torso to the left and right.

Seated Side Crunch– Also known as an oblique crunch, this is a simpler version. Sitting straight, drop your shoulder towards the hip, alternating to each side.

Toe Taps– Laying down, bend the knees. Raise one leg at a 90-degree angle, then gently lower it back to the ground, touching the toes to the floor. Repeat, alternating legs.

Leg Exercises

Wall Sits– For more advanced stroke patients, have them stand against the wall. Then, lower the body down with the knees bent at a 90-angle. Have them hold for as long as they can. The patient should look as though they area sitting in an invisible chair.

Stand and Balance– Holding onto a stable surface, stand straight on one leg while swinging the opposite leg out to the side. Repeat a few time before switching legs.

Simple Clam Exercise– Laying on your side, bend the knees to a 45-degree angle and rest the legs on top of each other. Keeping the feet together, raise the top knee away from the other knee and hold for a few breaths before lowering back down.

Many of these exercises are modeled after and help with everyday activities. Try some out during your next session to help your stroke patients succeed!

Author: Troy Diffenderfer

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