Is there anything that will help relieve my dad's pain after his stroke?

A fellow caregiver asked...
My dad had a stroke two years ago, and he's got chronic pain in his stroke-affected arm and leg. What can be done to relieve the pain?

Expert Answer

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

Chronic pain following a stroke is often due to increased contraction of the muscles affected by the stroke, similar to cramping. This can lead to contractures (muscle tightening that prevents normal movement) and pain in the muscles and joints. 

It sounds like your dad needs the help of a physical therapist, which his doctor can help you find. A good physical therapist can teach you and your dad's other caregivers exercises to improve his range of motion. She can also recommend local therapies such as injection of botulinum toxin or the use of analgesic cream. 

If your dad's pain is unbearable and doesn't respond to exercise and local therapies, oral pain medication or muscle relaxants may be necessary.

As a family member and caregiver, you can help by being vigilant about limb contractures. Try to get your dad's leg and arm moving regularly -- but stop if there's pain, swelling, or contractures. If any of these occur, check with your dad's doctor about how to proceed.