ReLearning to Walk After A Stroke

I recently presented at a Stroke Symposium for the Pacific Stroke Association and several members of the audience asked me to post my slides.  They are posted here for educational purposes only. Not all of the slides are self-explanatory, so if you have questions please feel free to contact me.

Just a reminder:  IF you are holding onto anything with your hands, or if a therapist is holding onto you during your “balance exercises”  you are NOT working on balance.  One must not have contact with anything when learning to balance on their own, therefore it is very important that you practice only in safe confine with another person guarding for safety. I recommend standing with your back very near but not touching a corner, then placing a walker or chair or person in front of you for safety. 

ReLearning to Walk 09.17

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Human Standing

I see so many clients post-stroke who have poor standing balance yet have already begun to “walk”. They don’t actually walk, they “hobble”. Thing is that I have also noticed a lot of people who have never had a stroke also “hobble”, due to back pain.

I think that we have been ignoring the amazing features of the human brain and physiology that allow us to walk upright on two very small bases of support.  It is really kind of crazy that two little feet can keep us upright!  Well, we have more going for us than our feet…

Balance and upright posture is controlled by sensory interactions within our brains.  We do not “think” about balance, we simply balance. This requires that our brain be able to continuously compare input from our EYES, our INNER EAR, and SENSORY RECEPTORS in our MUSCLES.  After a stroke…or even an injury to the back… this sensory comparison is all out of whack! It is imperative to recalibrate the brain and the sensory signals it is utilizing.

A simple daily exercise will make a huge difference:

Stand against a wall with your heels touching the baseboard, hips touching the wall, shoulders touching the wall, head touching the wall.  Close your eyes.  Hold this position for 2 minutes with your eyes closed!  It will feel strange. Perhaps difficult and occasionally it may not seem possible. Stick with it.  After 2 minutes, open your eyes and then slowly turn your head to the left and then to the right, three times. Returning the head to midline each time.

Do this exercise 3 times per day every day for 2 weeks.

Once this is easy, the do the same exercise while standing in the corner of the kitchen. You will no longer be touching the wall, but instead free-standing as if you were against a wall.

*Always have supervision when doing any kind of balance training* Never try the exercise alone the first time*