A stroke can often leave an individual with arm movement impairment, making it difficult to move the arm forward or grasp and release objects. To build strength and renew the muscle-to-mind connections (which are often lost after a stroke), your brain must relearn. Luckily, it’s possible to retrain the brain to make up for neurological damage if you keep the affected muscle groups active.
Performing below mentioned exercises at home can empower stroke survivors to restore normal function to their arms and improve activities of daily living (ADL). These exercises are broken up into 3 difficulty levels. As a thumb rule, focus on basic exercises first. Read through the directions carefully.
Performing these basic exercises is a starting point to add flexibility and mobility to your affected arm.
- Inner Arm Stretch: Place your hands palms down on the table and rotate your wrist. While rotating the wrist, make sure that your fingers are pointing towards your body. Now, slowly move your body backward keeping your elbows straight. Continue until you feel a stretch on the inside of the arm.
- Wrist and Hand Stretch: Place your forearm on the table, with the affected hand over the edge of the table, palm down. Now, drop the hand down. This should gently stretch the ligaments and muscles. Place stronger palm on the affected wrist for support. Now, slowly lift the wrist up, down and sideways.
Once you have gained basic flexibility in the wrist, inner arm, and hand, the next goal should be the full range of motion for the joints. Below mentioned exercises are your keys to do that.
- Elbow Stretch: Hold the arm at a comfortable position. Now, carefully bend and straighten the elbows as if you are doing a dumbbell curl.
- Crawling Stretch: Take up a crawling position, keeping your elbows straight. Gently lean your body backward. While leaning backward, maintain your arm position until you feel a stretch on your inner arm.
- Wrist Motion: Extend the elbow and rotate your wrist through a full range of motion. The exercise can be done while sitting or standing comfortably.
Once you have regained good range of motion in your arm and wrist, begin strengthening the muscles with below mentioned exercises.
- Elbow Weight Training: Stand or sit comfortably. Hold a small weight in your hand. Now, gently bend and straighten the elbow. Repeat to your endurance point. It is important to increase repetitions as the elbow strengthens over time.
- Finger Walk: Stand in a good posture, facing a wall. Place your fingers gently on the surface of the wall. Walk your fingers up the surface using a spider-like motion. Now, walk them back down.
- Seated Push Up: Finally, sit on the ground with your knees bent and your palms on the floor. Keeping your fingers pointing forward, push through your hands to cause your bottom to lift off the floor slightly. Increase repetitions as you grow stronger.
Caution: Above mentioned exercises are generally helpful in strengthening and mobilizing the arm after stroke. However, each survivor is affected by stroke differently. Hence, the above mentioned regimen should not be considered as standard treatment prescription.