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Physical Therapy and Stroke Rehab: A Lock and Key

More than 795,000 people experience a stroke every year and is a leading reason for disability and death. It affects many aspects of life and will change a person’s quality of life as well as their independence. Sometimes a person will have changes in physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges. However, if you are someone you know has experienced a stroke, there is hope for recovery. Physical therapy has been shown by research to be vital in stroke rehabilitation and having getting a person back to their previous level of function. The goal is to help improve mobility, function, and confidence.


Goals of Physical Therapy

There are several aspects of that physical therapy will focus on in stroke recovery. A lot depends on what the patient is experiencing. Goals can range from improving movement and a person’s balance, strengthening of muscles, coordination improvement, as well as decrease/prevent stiffness, pain, and the risk of blood clots. Another very important aspect of physical therapy is that it will help the patient relearn skills that may have been affected, such as walking, climbing stairs, rolling over in bed, or standing up.


What to Expect with Physical Therapy

Physical therapy usually starts in the hospital. Depending on how the person is doing and what limitations may have occurred, they may be encouraged to go to a Skilled Nursing Facility, In patient rehab, or home. At those facilities they will get to work with a physical therapist who will assess their strength, balance, coordination, range of motion, sensation, pain, and functional abilities. It is designed for that person individually to address limitations and help the individual regain function. If needed, physical therapy can help teach the patient how to use walkers, canes, or wheelchairs, if needed.


Individuals can also go to outpatient physical therapy (like our practice). Here the patient will get an individual plan that meets the patient’s goals and address where there are limitations in their function.


Benefits of Physical Therapy

The benefits of physical therapy after stroke are numerous and well-documented. Physical therapy can help stroke survivors:


Physical therapy can also have positive effects on the mental and emotional health of stroke survivors. Recovering function and mobility can help boost their self-esteem, motivation, and mood. This helps to reduce the risk of depression, anxiety and isolation that often accompany stroke.


It Takes a Village

Physical therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each stroke survivor has a unique situation and needs a tailored approach. PT is only part of recovering from a stroke. Patients get help from a team of professionals who work together to provide comprehensive care. The team may include a physiatrist, a neurologist, nurses, an occupational therapist, a speech-language pathologist, a dietician, a social worker, a neuropsychologist and a case manager.



If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke, don’t lose hope. Physical therapy can help you regain functional mobility and independence, improve your quality of life and well-being, prevent or reduce complications and make the most of your recovery.





Source: Founded in 1956, the Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association champions the success of physical therapist-owned businesses. Our members are leaders and innovators in the healthcare system. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 85,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and students of physical therapy nationwide. For more information, please visit




Tags: physical therapy Arlington, physical therapy Falls Church, Virginia, physical therapy Annandale
Alana Hamilton Alana Hamilton is a physical therapist at Advantage Physical Therapy in Falls Church, Virginia. She is a proud Hokie from Virginia Tech with a major in Biology and a minor in psychology and sociology. Following graduation, she immediately got her doctorate in Physical Therapy from Radford University. She is an avid fan of Pilates, running, and hiking. On the weekends, she can be found hanging out with her family and baby as well as doing Spartan races with her old physical therapy classmates and friends. She is a big believer that during rehabilitation, "Motion is the Lotion" and that staying active is key to remaining healthy.

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