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Stroke rehabilitation

8-minute read

Key facts

  • Stroke rehabilitation includes all activities and therapy you may be recommended after a stroke — these are designed to help you regain the skills that were affected when you had a stroke.
  • Physiotherapists and speech therapists are a key part of the stroke rehabilitation team.
  • Stroke rehabilitation takes time, so you and your care team will help you set goals and work towards them.
  • Carers play an important role in supporting your recovery from a stroke, and training is available to help them in this role.

What is stroke rehabilitation?

Stroke rehabilitation includes activities and therapy to help your brain adapt to the injury caused by having a stroke. It helps your brain relearn or find new ways to carry out skills affected by your stroke.

Rehabilitation helps your brain create new brain pathways. In this way, you learn to use different parts of your brain to do the things you did before your stroke.

How does a stroke affect the body?

The ways a stroke affects your body depends on many factors, including the type of stroke you had and which part of your brain was affected. Strokes can cause many different problems.

What problems might I experience after a stroke?

Every stroke is different, depending on where in the brain it happens and how severe it is.

Problems related to movement and muscle control could include:

  • weakness on one side of your body, including in your arms and legs
  • difficulty controlling movement or coordinating movement
  • trouble swallowing
  • difficulty speaking, reading or writing
  • stiff muscle

Problems related to your 5 senses:

  • difficulty receiving messages from your senses – smell, touch, taste, sight and hearing
  • changes in how you perceive stimuli (sounds, smells, sights etc)

Other issues may include:

Assessment for rehabilitation

A rehabilitation team will assess how you can benefit from rehabilitation after a stroke. The amount and type of rehabilitation they recommend for you will depend on your needs and how much you can manage. You, your family and your carers should be involved in making these decisions.

Rehabilitation can start in hospital very soon after a stroke. It may continue at a rehabilitation facility or sometimes in an outpatient unit.

Physiotherapy

After your stroke, a physiotherapist will assess how well you move, sit, stand and walk. Your physiotherapist will work with you to set step by step goals and make a plan to work towards them.

Physiotherapy can last months and continuing to do your exercises is important for your long-term progress.

Speech therapy

After a stroke, you may have problems with communication, including difficulty speaking, understanding, reading and writing. A speech pathologist will work on these challenges with you.

You may benefit from:

  • practising talking, listening and writing
  • learning other ways to communicate, such as hand signals or a board, book or computer
  • exercising the muscles needed for speech to improve their strength and coordination

Recovery

Recovery after a stroke depends upon many factors including how severe your stroke was, which part of the brain was affected and how your rehabilitation is progressing. The most rapid recovery occurs in the first 6 months after a stroke. Further recovery is possible, but may take years.

Training for carers

Carers may benefit from training that allows them to better care for the person who has had a stroke.

Training can assist careers to:

  • assist the person with a stroke to perform their daily activities
  • guide the person with a stroke through their rehabilitation exercises
  • manage the emotional challenges the person with a stroke may experience
  • develop coping skills

If your carers provide you with physical, emotional and/or practical help, ask your rehabilitation team if training is available to help support them.

Resources and Support

Call StrokeLine to talk to a health professional and get free confidential advice: 1800 787 653 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm AEST.)

If your main language is not English, you can also call Strokeline with the help of an interpreter:

  1. Call the Telephone Interpreting Service 13 14 50
  2. Ask for the language you need
  3. Ask the interpreter to call Strokeline with you.

Visit the Stroke Foundation's rehabilitation website, enableme to find topics to help your recovery.

Read more about stroke rehabilitation and download fact sheets on the Stroke Foundation website:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2023


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