Physical problems


The most common effects of stroke are physical ones such as weakness, numbness and stiffness.

  • Weakness and paralysis

Weakness of an arm, leg or both is probably the most common and widely recognised effect of a stroke.

Weakness can vary in its severity. Some people have very mild weakness in one part of their body, but many people find that one whole side of their body has been affected.

Paralysis is the loss of the ability to move a part of your body.

  • Spasticity

Following a stroke, muscles can feel stiff and tight, and can become painful. This is known as spasticity.

If you think your muscles are getting stiff, talk to your physiotherapist about what to do. She or he may suggest how best to position your limbs to reduce muscle tone, and may suggest some exercises. If more treatment is needed, an assessment from a specialist physiotherapist or a consultant in neurorehabilitation may be useful.

  • Problems with walking

After a stroke, your toes may catch on the ground as you walk. This is known as ‘drop foot’. Walking can be more difficult and you may be more likely to trip or fall. You might feel unsteady on your feet and struggle to find your balance.

An Ankle-Foot Orthosis, or AFO, is a type of foot brace, usually made of plastic that can help with standing and walking. It can improve your walking speed, stability and balance.

Functional Electrical Stimulation, or FES, uses small electrical signals to replace the nerve impulses that have been interrupted by damage to the brain.

  • Changes in sensation.

After a stroke, you may be less sensitive, for example to touch, so may not feel something you bump into.

You may have increased sensitivity, which can affect a range of senses such as taste, hearing, touch and muscular sensitivity to pain.

You may experience abnormal and unpleasant sensations such as the feeling of burning, cutting, tingling, stinging or numbness.

Often these sensations improve in time.

A physiotherapist can help and advise you on dealing with the physical effects of stroke.


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