A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain suddenly gets cut off. It can be caused by a blockage in one of the vessels, known as an “ischaemic stroke” or it can be a bleed in the brain, which is a “haemorrhagic stroke.” When the blood supply gets cut off, the cells in the affected part of the brain do not get the nutrients that they need from the blood, and they subsequently die.
The impact of the stroke depends on its location or where the cell death occurs. For example, it can affect your cerebellum, which is a part of your brain that controls movement and coordination. If this is the case, your brain, which acts as a computer system, is unable to send messages to your muscles to coordinate your movement efficiently. This ultimately causes movement difficulties.
Let me tell you what is magical about stroke recovery. There is a process called neuroplasticity, where the nerves in the brain reorganise themselves. The nerves grow and link with other nerves to make new routes for messages or electrical impulses to travel. Let me give you an analogy: imagine you are driving in your car and you are trying to get from location A to location B. You are sitting in traffic because there has been a car accident ahead. You and many other cars therefore decide to reverse and take another route to reach your destination. This is exactly what happens in your brain, the messages from the brain, take a new route to give your muscles the messages, and as a result movement improves, as does mobility. Neuroplasticity however does not happen on its own, it needs teaching. This is where neurological physiotherapy comes in, to promote neuroplasticity and to teach the body how to move correctly.
Written by Hily Perpinyal, Chartered Physiotherapist