Statistics show a dismal 10% full recovery rate after a stroke. Stroke affects millions of people. Science is constantly searching for new ways to get better recovery outcomes. One new promising study shows injecting stem cells into the area of brain damage from a stroke can stimulate better recovery. The study indicates that the damage to the brain is NOT permanent and the damaged areas are simply frozen in shock. Stem cell treatment is still many years away from being available for stroke recovery. In the meantime, there is an approach that is available now and doesn’t cost a fortune. It is not in the accepted medical lexicon because it is only recently that science has radically changed its understanding of how the brain works.
Brain-Centered Approach To Stroke Recovery
Science now knows the brain gets all new information through the senses. Movement activates the senses. The most effective way to resolve trauma is through the body. But it is the approach that must change. For instance, a client had a surgery that did damage to the nerves around the upper rib cage and shoulder causing the muscles to atrophy. Physical Therapy or exercise was ineffective to re-connect the nerves to the affected muscles. A brain-centered approach that utilizes how we naturally learn movements helped the client regain full functionality as if the trauma never happened.
As we learn movements the brain creates an internal sensory map so that we don’t have to recreate a pattern every time we repeat it. Parts of the sensory map are damaged from a stroke, depending on its severity. The damage causes a mix-up or total loss of function ranging from a pear tasting like an apple to a totally useless limb. The stem cell study shows that some elements of the map may not be gone, just traumatized, much like the client that seemed to have a “paralyzed” shoulder.
The challenge is how to re-populate the sensory map? We know how it is created in the first place, so the same approach must be used to re-populate it. Understanding how you learned to move as a baby is essential to achieving full recovery after a stroke. You learned how to move non-consciously, but to recover and restore function you must consciously understand how to go about re-learning movements you have lost. The ability to identify and change how you move is:
- Connect with how it feels to move
- Respond to what you feel the way your brain expects you to respond
- Understand how your structure is optimally organized for movement
- Integrate five essential elements into all movements
Connecting with what it feels like to move is not always so easy after a stroke. In order to feel a movement, you must close your eyes. Too often I see people express frustration that they can watch their hand and get it to move but they have no control of it. When I ask them to close their eyes and move the hand they are astonished to feel nothing. It turns out what we see has little to do with what we feel. And with eyes closed, we find out just what is in the sensory map and what is not.
Learning to move the way the brain evolved is the best option to help people recover from the effects of a stroke. Individuals can even learn to move and function better than before their stroke through movement learning. Science definitively shows that the brain learns through feeling our movements, now the health industry and society need to catch up with the science. A new book called Getting Smarter – It’s Not What You Think further explains the science and is a practical guide to help you transition to learning as your brain evolved.