In the UK someone is affected by a stroke every five minutes, approximately 100,000 people per year. Strokes affect people differently. They may be minor or major, with effects lasting short term or long term. Here we will discuss some of the more common physical effects of stroke to be aware of.
Approximately 75% of stroke survivors in the UK have leg or arm weakness. Weak muscles will affect everyday activities such as walking and picking up things. Weakness or paralysis will likely affect one side of the body and mean more help is needed with everyday life.
Foot drop is a condition where the toes touch the ground as you step forward, sometimes forcing you to lift the foot higher or swing the leg out to the side. This increases the risk of trips and falls. It is caused by weakness in the muscles of the foot and ankle.
Fatigue is a mental and physical tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest. It may be mild or severe. In severe cases it can make something as simple as using a knife and fork to eat, become exhausting. The fatigue is often in combination with reduced general fitness and stamina after a stroke due to being less active. Being physically active can help reduce the risk of stroke. You can read more about how to prevent stroke here.
Pain following a stroke is common. This can be due to spasticity (muscle tightness), muscle stiffness, weak muscles, unusual sensations (see below) such as tingling or burning due to damage to the nerve endings. Headaches are often more common after a stroke too.
Spasticity affects approximately one third of stroke survivors. This happens when muscles become very tight and don’t relax. It causes stiffness and tiredness in the muscles of the unaffected side as they are used more to compensate. Spasticity may develop as quickly as a week following the stroke or it may develop some time later. Spasticity may develop into contractures.
Contractures are a permanent shortening or lengthening of the muscles due to spasticity. If this becomes permanent it can cause the joint to become fixed in position and so may remain bent.
Changes in sensation
A stroke can affect your sensation in various ways:
- Feeling less sensitive to touch – limbs can feel numb.
- Feeling less sensitive to temperature – this increases the risk of burns.
- Feeling more sensitive to stimuli – for example, taste, hearing or touch.
- Feeling unaware of the position and movement of your limbs. Your body has a system that makes it aware of its position and movement – Can lead to difficulty knowing exactly where the limbs are and what they are doing.
- Having unusual sensations in your limbs – this may be pins and needles, tingling, burning, pressure or feeling like something is touching your skin.
The speed and amount of recovery depends on the amount of damage and the area of the brain damaged by the stroke.
It’s common to see significant improvements in the first few months following a stroke. However, recovery progress often slows down but may continue for a long time.
Rehabilitation is essential after a stroke. It can begin as soon as 24 hours following a stroke. With physical stroke symptoms physiotherapy will be the likely course of action and should continue until independence is gained, with or without the help of others.
Eximius can help
Eximius offers live-in support to stroke survivors who need extra help with daily activities to allow them to live a whole and fulfilling life. We ensure a tailored-made support package to ensure you get exactly the support you need. Contact us here for more information.
Stroke – What you need to know
Communication problems following a stroke