Is there a stroke recovery deadline?
If you have had a stroke, you may be wondering how long you will continue to make improvements to your function and mobility. If you have heard the phrase recovery post stroke only happens in the first 6 months- you are not alone. I even recall learning this when I was studying at University…good news is our understanding of recovery post stroke has evolved and we now know that recovery can continue to happen for many years- the reason for this is neuroplasticity.
What is Neuroplasticity?
As the name suggests neuroplasticity describes the ‘plastic’ nature of our brains- they can be moulded and adapted depending on the information we take in.
To put it more eloquently;
“It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences” – (Celeste Campbell)
Previously, it was thought that brain cells do not increase over time and that the brain cannot create new neural connections. It was believed that we develop a certain amount of brain cells by adulthood and these slowly die as we age. Even a figure considered to be the father of neuroscience; Santiago Ramon y Cajal stated that “in adult centers, the nerve paths are something fixed, ended, immutable. Everything may die, nothing may be regenerated”. As research has evolved, we now understand that the brain can grow new neurons (Neurogenesis) and can also form new connections and pathways (Neuroplasticity). This was suggested as early as 1947 by Donald Hebb and our understanding of this has increased since. This incredible ability that our brains possess allows people who experience damage to their brain cells to make improvements in their physical function as well as in other aspects such as speech and vision.
Can Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis happen years after a Stroke?
Yes it can! I’ve seen it firsthand working with clients in the community post stroke and beyond that there is lots of research supporting this. For example a study looking at the effect of long term rehabilitation post stroke explored what would happen to clients who were unable to walk 3 months post stroke if they continued to receive intensive therapy. 74% of patients in this study gained the ability to walk unaided 2 years post their stroke (Dam et al., 1993)
As Neurological Physiotherapists we utilise techniques such as motor re-learning, Bobath, normal movement approaches and repetitive task specific practice to utilise the principles of neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
We work with you to identify your ongoing goals and provide individualised therapy to help you achieve them- no matter how deep into your recovery post stroke.
Note: The information provided in this post is general only and may vary depending on your situation. For more specific individualised advice, please get in touch with us for an assessment.
Recovery post stroke can continue to happen for many years due to the wonderful impact of Neuroplasticity.
Book an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists today at Revive Neuro Physiotherapy for a comprehensive assessment and customised treatment plan.