Virtual rehabilitation can boost stroke recovery

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Recovering from a stroke can be a challenging journey, especially when it comes to regaining the ability to move one’s lower body.

This difficulty often affects a person’s quality of life, mental health, and increases their risk of falling.

Researchers at UBC Okanagan are working on innovative solutions to address these challenges and improve the recovery process for stroke survivors.

Sarah Park, a master’s student at the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management (CCDPM) at UBC Okanagan, highlights a significant issue: the transition from hospital to home.

Patients often face a tough time due to short hospital stays and poor access to ongoing rehabilitation services. This issue is particularly acute for those trying to regain lower body functions like balance, stability, and the ability to walk properly.

To tackle this problem, Dr. Brodie Sakakibara, a researcher at CCDPM, has taken the lead on a project that could change the game for stroke survivors across the country.

Together with a team of researchers, clinicians, and individuals who have experienced a stroke firsthand, they’ve tested the waters of a telerehabilitation program designed to enhance recovery of the lower extremities after a stroke.

This innovative program leverages technology to bring rehabilitation services to patients, no matter where they live. It involves eight sessions of telerehabilitation, conducted via videoconference with a trained physical therapist.

The therapy focuses on lower body mobility, using standardized exercises and self-management techniques to help participants improve their strength and mobility.

Dr. Ada Tang, an Associate Professor at McMaster University’s School of Rehabilitation Sciences and a co-investigator on the study, reported that participants not only improved their mobility and strength but also made significant strides towards their rehabilitation goals.

Moreover, they learned self-management skills to maintain their progress in the long term.

While the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the development of many virtual rehabilitation programs, this particular program stands out for its proven effectiveness and increased accessibility.

It’s a boon for those in rural and remote areas who otherwise might not have easy access to rehabilitation services.

However, the research team has noted a key insight: the therapeutic benefits of the program must be sustained through ongoing therapy and self-management post-program. Without this continued effort, the gains made during the program could be lost.

This insight underscores the importance of self-management in stroke rehabilitation. By empowering patients with the skills to manage their condition and continue exercising after the program ends, these virtual programs can offer a more sustainable recovery path.

Ultimately, this approach aims to improve health outcomes by equipping people with the tools they need to adapt to their new circumstances.

Virtual rehabilitation, coupled with self-management, promises to enhance the care continuum for stroke survivors, helping them to reintegrate into the community and enjoy a better quality of life.

The findings of this important study were recently shared in the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Journal, marking a step forward in the ongoing effort to support stroke survivors on their path to recovery.

If you care about stroke, please read studies about how to eat to prevent stroke, and diets high in flavonoids could help reduce stroke risk.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and wild blueberries can benefit your heart and brain.

The research findings can be found in Physical Therapy.

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