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Stroke Rehabilitation

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.


Stroke rehabilitation (rehab)

is an important part of physical, mental, and emotional recovery. Rehab is a program run by specialists who will help you recover abilities you may have lost. Some rehab may begin as soon as 24 hours after a stroke. Rehab may be done in a hospital, long-term care facility, or outpatient facility. It may also be done at home. Stroke recovery can take time, but healthcare providers will be there to help you.

A family member or other supportive person

can be a part of your recovery. The person can go to rehab sessions with you. He or she can learn the exercises with you and help you practice the skills you learn.

Physical therapy

teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. A therapist may help you learn to do any of the following:

  • Walk, improve balance, improve coordination, and prevent falls
  • Build strength in weak arms or legs
  • Transfer safely from a bed to a chair or from a chair to standing
  • Use assistive devices such as canes, walkers, splints, and braces
  • Perform range of motion and resistance exercises
  • Stretch stiff or tight muscles
  • Strengthen bladder and bowel muscles to treat incontinence

Occupational therapy

teaches you skills to help with daily activities, such as the following:

  • Eat, dress, bathe, groom, or use the bathroom independently
  • Learn ways to do activities if you have paralysis in an arm or leg
  • Focus attention on the side of your body that you may ignore
  • Use special equipment such as button hooks for dressing
  • Complete a series of tasks in a step by step way
  • Determine what assistive devices you may need in your home

Speech therapy

helps improve your ability to communicate and understand language. A speech-language pathologist, or speech therapist, teaches you exercises to improve communication. The therapist may also test how well you can swallow and eat. He or she may help you do the following:

  • Strengthen muscles needed for speaking, swallowing, drinking, and eating
  • Learn how to swallow and prevent choking
  • Find other ways for you to communicate if needed, such as sign language, communication boards, or computers

Cognitive therapy

helps improve your memory, concentration, and learning. Your therapist will help you create improvement goals based on skills that are most important to you. He or she can help you do the following:

  • Improve your problem-solving skills
  • Break tasks into steps, and practice doing the steps
  • Learn ways to remember facts, such as rhymes or creating a picture in your mind
  • Create reminders, such as an alarm to remind you to take medicine or go to an appointment
  • Use computer tools and programs to improve your memory and attention

Vocational therapy

is used to help you go back to work. This may mean returning to the job you had before your stroke. If you are not going to be able to continue in that job, a therapist can help you find new work. Your therapist may be able to help you with the following:

  • Find your strengths and skills, and help match them to jobs
  • Help you with job applications, resumes, and other business materials
  • Practice interviewing to focus on your strengths and skills instead of your experience

Emotional therapy

can help you manage changes in your emotions. You may have trouble controlling or coping with emotions after a stroke. This may be caused by damage in the brain. It may also be caused by the loss of body functions or independence. A therapist can help you do the following:

  • Recognize signs of depression
  • Talk about your feelings and find ways to manage the changes in your emotions
  • Recommend medicines to treat depression, anxiety, or problems controlling your emotions
  • Help you find support groups to talk about your feelings and concerns with others who had a stroke

What you need to know about depression after a stroke:

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have depression that continues or is getting worse. Your provider may be able to help treat your depression. Your provider can also recommend support groups for you to join. A support group is a place to talk with others who have had a stroke. It may also help to talk to friends and family members about how you are feeling. Tell your family and friends to let your healthcare provider know if they see any signs of depression:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Avoiding social interaction with family or friends
  • A lack of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Low energy levels
  • A change in eating habits or sudden weight gain or loss

Follow up with your doctor or neurologist as directed:

Keep all appointments for therapy. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • American Heart Association and American Stroke Association
    1777 S. Harrison Street
    Denver , CO 80210
    Phone: 1- 303 - 801-4630
    Web Address:

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