The road to recovery after stroke is not always a straight line. Oftentimes there is rapid recovery during the first three months, but then the progress slows down. This eventually leads to a plateau in recovery after about six months.
In a scenario where varying levels of paralysis are common, a shift in mindset and making little changes to lifestyle is all it takes to break the plateau. This blog offers few tips that can help you dissect that plateau and get past it.
1. Understand the root-cause
In order to break out of the plateau, it helps to understand what causes it to begin with. Some of the most significant functional improvements often occur during the early days, reflecting the initial plasticity of the brain. However, after few days, you may feel that the initial spike in progress was the end of rehabilitation and that there is no further improvement possible. But for many stroke survivors, the plateau phase is quite common and even to be expected. Understanding this will help both the stroke survivor and caregiver to avoid losing hope and persistence during this difficult time.
2. Revise your workout regime
If you aren’t making any progress, you might need something new and different to jump-start it back into rehabilitation mode. Traditional therapy that isn’t evidence-based can be ineffective and can actually cause a plateau. Thus, familiar exercises must be altered and adjusted. Try switching up your workout intensity, duration, frequency or exercises you do. For that, you will be needing your therapist’s expert guidance.
3. Find the right therapist
If the therapist isn’t modifying the treatment to your specific needs and incorporating the latest proven interventions because he hasn’t been trained in them, perhaps, it’s time to try a new therapist. Your new therapist should be able to prescribe a new evidence-based technique.
With the help of your therapist, learn to set SMART goal(s): specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. When you’re working systematically toward something, your motivation will stay high. After all, the recently damaged brain is taking the necessary time to heal and regrow. And, this requires setting relevant, short-term goals.
4. Learn and try new things
Along with making changes to your regimen (as recommended by the therapist, of course), pick a new skill you want to learn (like playing piano) and practice that. Simple changes like this will initiate Neuroplasticity and help you get past Plateau.
Be part of the relevant research studies (only if your therapist allows you). It may not always work, but you may just luck out with a great new treatment. It’s also not a bad idea to join a stroke group.
5. Track your progress
Tracking everything is essential to making the stroke rehabilitation work for you. Take your current measurements to get a more accurate view of the progress made. Track these measures and compare them to your most recent stats. Apart from tracking your functional performance, it’s also wise to keep track of your:
- Daily meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and snacks
- Exercise and activity
- BMI (Body Mass Index)
6. Handle emotional changes
Stroke recovery is a long (and often slow) process. Hence, frustration, anger, and depression are understandable obstacles to encounter. If you’re tired, sick, overwhelmed, or stressed, your speech or mobility may suffer.
Don’t give up hope. Many studies show that it is possible to break plateau after stroke. Everyone recovers at different rates. It’s best not to compare your recovery to others. Hope is the most powerful drug, hold onto it.