Following a stroke, a person may need one or more therapies to help them recover. They may also require medication. The recovery timeline and outcome will vary by person and the severity of their stroke.

A stroke occurs when a part of the brain does not receive enough blood due to a blocked or burst artery that leads to a part of the brain. It is a leading cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, over 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke. Of these, about 185,000 of them are recurrent strokes while the rest are first or new strokes.

Following a stroke, many people will require one or more types of therapy. They may also need medications to treat underlying conditions, assistive devices, or other services to help with recovery.

A person who has experienced a stroke that has caused minimal damage to the brain may require less rehabilitative therapy and recover faster. However, several factors can impact a person’s recovery.

This article explores the various therapies, medications, and other services a person may require following a stroke. It also discusses a person’s outlook and stroke prevention methods.

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Rehabilitation therapy aims to help a person relearn skills they may have lost due to any brain damage caused by a stroke. A secondary goal is to help prevent the person from developing medical complications, such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, or injury due to falls.

There are different types of rehabilitation therapy. Practitioners may provide services in both inpatient and outpatient centers.

A person may require several therapies, such as:

A doctor typically determines what type of therapy or services a person may benefit from, as well as whether they need inpatient or outpatient services.

During and following therapies, a person may require mobility aids, including canes, walkers, or other devices to help prevent falls.

Technology-assisted therapy

Some people may benefit from technology-assisted therapy which may include:

  • virtual reality
  • computer programs
  • robotic devices

These activities may help someone practice new skills and improve their function in a safe setting.

In 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Neuorlution’s IpsiHand Upper Extremity Rehabilitation System (IpsiHand System) in people over the age of 18 who have had a stroke.

The IpsiHand System is a type of brain-computer-interface (BCI) device that facilitates rehabilitation of the upper extremities following a stroke. The upper extremities include the arms, hands, and wrists.

The device uses noninvasive electroencephalography to send a signal from the brain to a tablet that then relays the intended movement to an electronic hand brace. The brace then helps the person make the intended movement.

People require a prescription for the device. It may not be appropriate for everyone who has experienced a stroke.

Medication or drug therapy is the most common stroke treatment. It typically involves antithrombotics — anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents, such as aspirin — and thrombolytics, which are medications that dissolve or break up blood clots. These medications can both help treat stroke and prevent future strokes from occurring.

According to the CDC, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which is thrombolytic, improves a person’s chances of fully recovering or having less disability following an ischemic stroke. It also reduces the likelihood of a person needing long-term care in a nursing home.

However, to be effective, a person needs to receive tPA within 3 hours of the first symptoms of an ischemic stroke. This is why people should call 911 as soon as they recognize someone is experiencing symptoms of a stroke.

People should only take medications with a doctor’s guidance.

Learn about the FAST signs of stroke here.

In addition to therapies and medications, a person recovering from a stroke and people close to them may benefit from additional services, including:

  • nutritional care
  • counseling
  • social work
  • stroke support groups
  • education programs

A person can speak with a healthcare professional for recommendations or information about services available in their area. They may also benefit from finding groups online. The American Stroke Association offers a tool to help people find local support groups.

The stroke recovery timeline will vary greatly between people. A person will often start rehabilitation services within 2 days of their stroke, typically in a hospital.

Recovery can take anywhere from a few weeks to years. Some people may fully recover while others may have lifelong disabilities. A person who has experienced a stroke that has caused minimal damage to their brain may fully recover and require rehabilitative therapy for less time.

Factors that affect a person’s outlook can include:

  • their age
  • the severity of brain damage
  • the severity of other medical conditions
  • cooperation of friends and family
  • their level of alertness
  • timing of rehabilitation
  • the intensity of the rehabilitation program
  • ability to modify home and work environments for safety concerns

Recurrent strokes account for about 25% of all strokes in the U.S. per year. A person can take steps to reduce their chances of having another stroke by:

Stroke recovery may involve a combination of therapies, medications, and other services. Each person will have a different recovery experience and rehabilitation program based on their individual needs following a stroke. A healthcare professional can offer more detail on an individual basis.

Rehabilitation may take several weeks to years, depending on each person who has experienced a stroke. Some people may fully recover from a stroke following rehabilitation, but others may have to adjust to long-term disabilities.

People should speak with a healthcare professional about individual rehabilitation programs and their outlook following a stroke.