How can I recover from a stroke?

1 answer | Last updated: Dec 03, 2012
Kitty asked...

I had a stroke last year and I have lost the use of my left side. What can I do to get the left side of my body to work again?

Expert Answers

Cleo Hutton, a survivor of two strokes, is coauthor of Striking Back at Stroke: A Doctor-Patient Journal , and author of After a Stroke: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier , a daily step-by-step guide for furthering stroke recovery at home.


There are many things you can do to get your brain to recognize your left side again.
First, therapy is a vitally important facet of rehabilitation. Possibly you received physical therapy post-stroke. While in therapy, the therapist designed a program specific to your loss of function. Those exercises are important to do at home too. Many other exercises I describe in detail in the book After a Stroke: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier (Demos Medical Publishing, 2005).

Since your stroke was recent, you may have an improved chance at using the power of brain “plasticity” to regain more movement on you stroke affected left side. Use your right hand the gently massage your left hand and arm. Use your right hand to move and rotate gently the shoulder and elbow of your left arm. Walk short distances with the aid of a walker or cane, and/or assistance if necessary, if you have been instructed to do so. When lying down, wiggle your toes or move both legs from side to side as much as possible. Press your heel to the floor and raise your toes. The object is to move your left side as much as you can in order to “rewire” your brain to recognize the left side of your body.

Second, do your homework. Find out from your neurologist exactly what area of the brain was damaged by the stroke and what that particular area controls within the body. This will give you more information and power in recognizing what you must do to compensate. Your stroke affected left side may not ever be as strong as your right side but it is possible to considerably improve function. Never accept the old traditional saying that “If it hasn’t returned in the first six months it probably won’t”. That is old school thinking and definitely incorrect. Function will not improve unless and until you try to improve it.

Third, age and other medical problems may be preventing you from progressing as fast as you would like. Take these into consideration while you slowly progress towards improved movement.

Finally, it will take time to heal from stroke, not only physically but psychologically as well. Keep a journal of your progress.

Thank you for your question and keep us posted of your steps forward.