Other problems


Other common problems following a stroke include:

  • Physical pain
  • Poor balance
  • Bladder and bowel problems, and
  • Swallowing problems.


A stroke can lead to spasticity and other painful conditions.

  • Spasticity is a form of muscle tightness. Daily physiotherapy, splinting or casting, and medication can help control contractures and reduce pain.
  • Shoulder problems are quite common after a stroke resulting in prolonged stiffness, loss of movement and often severe pain. If the shoulder causes pain, mild painkillers such as paracetamol and/or anti-inflammatory drugs, should help to control it.
  • Central post-stroke pain (CPSP) may occur at the time of the stroke but more often it begins several months later.The pain is often described as an icy burning sensation, throbbing, or shooting pain in the part of the body affected by the stroke. Some medications originally developed for epilepsy and depression can have a positive effect. Referral onto a pain management programme may also be beneficial.
  • Sometimes after a stroke your hand can swell up and become painful. This usually happens when the hand isn’t being moved very much. Paracetamol can sometimes help to relieve the pain.
  • It is quite common for people to experience headaches after a stroke caused by a bleed (haemorrhagic stroke). The pain tends to lessen over time and can usually be controlled by painkillers such as paracetamol. Anyone experiencing a sudden, severe headace or a persistent headache should seek medical attention urgently to find out what is causing it.

As with many aspects of stroke, pain may persist for some time, but physiotherapy and other treatments are successful in many instances. Talk to us about coping techniques that can be learned to help you manage with long-term pain.

Balance problems

Problems with balance are common after stroke. If your balance has been affected, you may feel dizzy or unsteady which could lead to a fall or loss of confidence when walking and moving around.

Trying to get moving as soon as possible will help your reecovery. A physiotherapist can assess you and recommend therapy or exercises that may help you to recover.

To be effective the exercises need to be:

  • intensive – you need to do as much as you can, as often as you can
  • individual – you need to work on the things that you find difficult
  • functional – you need to practise the everyday things that you find difficult
  • progressive – you need to move on to more challenging activities once your are able to do an activity and keep improving.

Bladder and bowel problems

About half of all people admitted to hospital with a stroke will have lost control of their bladder, and a third will experience loss of bowel control. This is calledincontinence.

Your stroke may have damaged the part of the brain that controls the bladder and/or the bowel.

Regaining control can improve both your morale and overall recovery. It may take time for recovery to happen.

Treatment may include:

  • bladder training
  • bowel training
  • pelvic floor exercises
  • bladder stimulation
  • treatment for constipation
  • medication
  • weight loss, or
  • dietary changes.

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