Stroke is one of the major causes of death and disability in Australia today. Physiotherapists have a key role in the rehabilitation of people who have had a stroke, helping them return to the highest possible level of physical function.

What is Stroke?

The brain is supplied by several major blood vessels. These vessels may become blocked, or less commonly haemorrhage, which results in an area of damaged brain tissue. This kind of 'brain attack' is called a stroke.

Problems Caused by Stroke?

These vary, depending on the area of the brain affected and how severely it is damaged.

Some common problems include:
bullet reduced control of movement and/or loss of feeling in some parts of the body, usually on the opposite side to the stroke
bullet difficulty walking
bullet disturbance of balance
bullet vision problems
bullet problems with speaking and/or understanding speech
bullet confusion, poor memory
bullet reduced control over bladder or bowel
bullet difficulty swallowing
bullet reduced control over emotions

Major Risk Factors
One or a combination of the following factors may increase the risk of stroke:
bullet high blood pressure
bullet hardening and narrowing of the arteries (this occurs over long periods of time, due to a build up of fatty deposits inside the artery)
bullet heart disease
bullet high cholesterol diet
bullet stress
bullet smoking
bullet obesity
Warning Signs
Sometimes, one or more of the problems previously described as caused by stroke may occur for a short period, then disappear. This is called a transient ischaemic attack. If this happens, contact your doctor immediately.
Reducing the Risk
You can reduce the risk of stroke by:
bullet regular medical checkups
bullet taking prescribed tablets as directed by your doctor
bullet giving up smoking
bullet keeping weight within average for height and age
bullet eating a well balanced diet
bullet regular exercise
How Physiotherapists Can Help

Physiotherapists are specially trained to assess movement difficulties that may occur as a result of a stroke. By re-educating normal movement, the physiotherapist can retrain functions such as walking and using the affected arm. Physiotherapists are trained in rehabilitation and work as an important member of the rehabilitation team. Physiotherapy rehabilitation may include training in the following activities.
A. Standing Up From Sitting Woman helping older man to stand
B. Walking Re-Education Woman helping younger man to walk
C. Arm Re-Education Woman helping girl to drink
Early Intervention

Early treatment by a physiotherapist assists recovery. Although most recovery usually occurs in the first three months after a stroke, improvement in function may continue for several years. Ongoing physiotherapy maximises the level of recovery achieved.

Treatment Options

Most people who have had strokes are initially treated in acute and rehabilitation hospitals. At a later stage, physiotherapy may be provided through a day hospital.

Physiotherapists skilled in treating stroke patients also work in private practice and may treat patients in their homes. Each branch of the Australian Physiotherapy Association has a list of these physiotherapists.

Health Rebates

A doctor's referral is not required to see a physiotherapist in private practice. A proportion of treatment costs are rebatable under all higher table health insurance schemes.
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Move well. Stay well.
By courtesy of the Australian Physiotherapy Association