How do I regain my balance after a stroke?

Pes1955 asked...

I had a right sided stroke (affected left side of body). After 4 weeks of live-in physical and occupational therapy, I still have a problem with falling toward my left side when I turn in that direction. Have hurt myself often and it gets so bad that I vomit and get very dizzy. Checks of my balance have been taken and results are normal. However, it feels like my brain crosses, like crossing one's eyes. Takes a while for me to get balanced again. Any help?

Expert Answer

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

A few thoughts here:

First, you should continue to get improvement in your symptoms after a stroke - out to at least 6 months after the stroke occurred. Therefore, I would continue to work on this aggressively with your physical and occupational therapist.

Second, it is never OK to be falling this much. You need to work with your therapists about finding a better way for you to turn safely. You may need extra support, such as with a walker, or with coaching on how to use a wall to support yourself while slowly turning.

Finally, on some rare occasions, I find that patients get benefit from medications. These include either meclizine or low dose benzodiazepines (the most commonly known being valium). Sometimes, these medicines nicely take the "edge off" vertigo and imbalance. However, I would work with your doctor on prescribing these, as in some cases the medicine makes the problem worse.

I would add that you would probably be well off to see a Physiatrist (Physical Medicine doctor) as they are experts in stroke rehabilitation.

Good luck!