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Physical Therapy: A Key to Stroke Recovery

Stroke is a leading cause of disability and death in the United States, affecting more than 795,000 people a year. Stroke survivors often face physical, cognitive and emotional challenges that affect their quality of life and independence. However, there is hope for recovery. Research shows that physical therapy is an essential part of stroke rehabilitation, helping patients regain mobility, function, and confidence.

Physical therapy focuses on improving movement and balance, strengthening muscles, improving coordination, and preventing complications like stiffness, pain and blood clots. Physical therapy can also help stroke survivors relearn skills that may have been affected by the stroke, such as standing up, walking, or climbing stairs.

Physical therapy is typically started in the hospital soon after a stroke and continues in different settings depending on the needs and goals of the patient. A physical therapist will assess the patient's strength, balance, coordination, range of motion, sensation, pain and functional abilities. Then they will design a personalized treatment program that targets the affected areas of the body. The physical therapist will also teach the patient how to use devices like walkers, canes or a wheelchair if needed.

The benefits of physical therapy after stroke are numerous and well-documented. Physical Therapy can help stroke survivors:

• Stimulate damaged nerves and muscles

• Improve circulation to those affected muscles and nerves

• Reduce stiffness of affected muscles and joints

• Relearn movements and activities

• Regain mobility and physical strength

• Achieve greater independence and quality of life

Physical therapy can also have positive effects on the mental and emotional health of stroke survivors. Recovering function and mobility can help boost their self-esteem, motivation and mood. This helps to reduce the risk of depression, anxiety and isolation that often accompany stroke.

Physical therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each stroke survivor has a unique situation and needs a tailored approach. PT is only part of recovering from a stroke. Patients get help from a team of professionals who work together to provide comprehensive care. The team may include a physiatrist, a neurologist, nurses, an occupational therapist, a speech-language pathologist, a dietician, a social worker, a neuropsychologist and a case manager.

If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke, don’t lose hope. Physical therapy can help you regain functional mobility and independence, improve your quality of life and well-being, prevent or reduce complications and make the most of your recovery.

About The Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association

Founded in 1956, the Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association champions the success of physical therapist-owned businesses. Our members are leaders and innovators in the healthcare system. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 85,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and students of physical therapy nationwide. For more information, please visit

Article brought to you by APTA Private Practice.

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