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F.A.S.T. Thinking May Reduce the Extent of Physical Therapy

Every 40 seconds someone suffers from a stroke. According to the Stroke Association, strokes are the fifth leading cause of death. On average, every four minutes someone dies of one. A stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or ruptured. Identifying if you are having a stroke quickly could decrease its severity or even save your life. Physical therapy aides in recovery post stroke and identifying you’re having one early may limit the extent of therapy you will need.

A stroke can occur to anyone, and can affect one or both sides of your brain. A right brain stroke affects the left side of the body and face. Things that may be affected from this are: paralysis on the left side of the body, vision problems, impulsive behavior, and memory loss. A left brain stroke affects the right side of the body and face. A left brain stroke may produce: paralysis on the right side of the body, speech and language problems, slow or cautious behavior, and memory loss. Some strokes affect both sides of the body and are referred to as “locked-in” strokes. These occur in the brainstem. Sixty-five percent of strokes occur when a blood vessel is blocked, often times from a blood clot or arteriosclerosis, and are called ischemic strokes. Other strokes are caused from leaks or ruptures from normal or abnormal vessels and are called hemorrhagic strokes. During all strokes the brain is kept from receiving the oxygen it needs. In result, millions of brain cells die. When seeking help, every second counts to help limit the severity of brain damage, disability, or death that may occur. How do you identify this to ensure the best outcome for you?

F.A.S.T is the acronym to use if you think that someone is experiencing a stroke. Face, Arms, Speech, Time. Face: look at the person smiling. Does one side of his/her mouth droop? Arms: look at their arms when raising them above the head and see if one drifts downward. Speech: when talking with them do you notice that their speech is slurred or seems strange? Time: call 911 if these signs are observed. The sooner a clot-busting drug is administered the better to decrease the amount and severity of side effects. Long-term effects may occur to those who suffer a stroke, and could possibly cause difficulty or the inability to move one side of the body. Along with difficulty moving one side of the body, comes weakness, decreased range of motion, and balance problems. Other long-term problems could be: lack of sensation, sensitivity to cold temperatures, memory loss, slowed/slurred speech, difficulty finding words to say, and off/on numbness. Therapy will assist in improving each stroke victim’s quality of life.

The physical therapy staff at the Johnson County Hospital is trained to help aide in the recovery of a stroke. Each patient is different, and the treatment will be tailored to you depending on how long it has been since the stroke, the severity of it, size, location, and previous health conditions. In early stages of a stroke, physical therapy teaches you how to move safely. The therapists will also assist you with bed positioning. Physical therapists use neuromuscular techniques on the affected extremity to help the brain reconnect with the extremity and promote using it. Later, treatment will continue to focus on these tasks with addition of balance and strength training. A physical therapist may also recommend the use of an ankle foot orthosis to help with foot clearance when walking. They can also fit and instruct how to use an assistive device appropriately to improve balance when walking. Our department also has the ability to use partial body weight support walking in our Alter G anti-gravity treadmill to assist in normalizing gait.

Don’t be a statistic. If you think someone is having a stroke think F.A.S.T. Knowing and using F.A.S.T. may decrease the extent of physical therapy needed or even save a life. Our staff at the Johnson County Hospital is here to support your needs, and give the best possible quality of life.

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