Rehabilitation and Plateaus

Rehabilitation: the action of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy after, in our case, a stroke.

After a stroke and the realization that you survived comes the recuperation phase in the hospital; the duration of this phase of the journey can differ from person to person but suffice it to say that it will take at least weeks. Then once you’ve been cleared comes the rehabilitation phase. For some of us, this was the encouraging part although for those who were not so lucky and had more severe deficits, it could be the discouraging phase. But not to worry, with the help of neuroplasticity we can all get better! And in the beginning, there could also be what we call rapid spontaneous recovery when things come back on their own rather quickly.  But after that or if you don’t have any spontaneous recovery comes the start of the hard work; those damn rehabilitation exercises. Now at the start of this phase progress is still seen for those who work hard but, more often than not, rehab is a rollercoaster ride and it’s been my experience, that rehab has a lot of ups and downs ups when you’re feeling good and things go smoothly and downs when they tank for reasons like sickness, boredom, stress, anxiety or my old nemesis depression. These can last for hours, days, weeks or in the case of depression months! Whenever I come across depression, I like to point out that in my personal experience it’s the worst disability of all and should be treated as soon as possible!  I lost 3 months of progress trying to get rid of it. In my mind all stroke/TBI survivors should be checked for depression early in their recovery to nip it in the bud!

Then after these ups and downs comes the mythical plateau. Mythical because it doesn’t really exist, because it’s not permanent! 

Plateau: a period or state of little or no growth or decline: to reach a plateau in one’s rehabilitation.

So what can cause these plateaus? Some of the things I’ve learned that can cause a plateau are like not having good functional goals, not using the right form or technique, boredom, not having a good therapist, Not having the right rehab tools and becoming discouraged to name a few.

So how do you overcome the plateau? Basically, by reversing the above causes. Have your therapist give you challenging functional goals, try new evidenced-based techniques or exercises, sign up for a research study, try a new facility or therapist, join a stroke group, join my blog, take a break to recharge your physical and mental capacities and fight discouragement.

Stroke recovery is not an easy task, it isn’t fast, it’s time consuming, boring and requires many repetitions of exercises.  But, thanks to focus, technique, stamina and our old friend plasticity progress will come again!


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