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How Can Electrical Stimulation Help Senior Stroke Survivors?

By Kevin McClarren, 9:00 am on

To those unfamiliar with electrical stimulation therapy, this type of treatment may sound painful and dangerous. However, it is actually quite safe and can even help alleviate pain, and many physical and occupational therapists use it for post-stroke rehabilitation. Warren post-stroke care experts discuss some of the basics of electrical stimulation and how it can help senior stroke survivors during recovery.

How Electrical Stimulation Therapy Works

During a stroke, a blockage or burst blood vessel damages a portion of the brain. In many cases, the motor cortex is affected, which means the brain cannot send electrical impulses to the affected area, leaving the muscles appearing spastic or flaccid. Electrical stimulation helps send these impulses, typically using electrodes applied to the skin. In some instances, the electrodes are placed directly on the affected nerves with a small controller implanted just under the skin.

Increases Movement

To regain movement following a stroke, the brain must create new neural pathways and send electrical impulses to the muscles. Electrical stimulation can help in this “rewiring” process and facilitate movement while the affected muscles strengthen. The best results are usually obtained when electrical stimulation is used in conjunction with physical therapy and an exercise regimen.

Reduces Muscle Spasticity

Electrical stimulation can help relax spastic muscles and alleviate the pain often associated with post-stroke physical therapy and exercise. The majority of seniors using electrical stimulation experience greater range of motion and increased voluntary muscle control. It can take up to 3 months to realize the full benefits of electrical stimulation therapy, and the spasticity may return once the therapy is discontinued.

Side Effects to Watch For

Most seniors using electrical stimulation experience few, if any, side effects. The external stimulation may cause a mild “pins and needles” sensation, which is usually tolerable. In rare instances, the electrodes may cause mild skin irritation. However, changing the type of electrode used or altering the stimulation setting can resolve the irritation. Seniors with poorly controlled epilepsy or those who have pacemakers may not be candidates for electrical stimulation therapy and should consult their doctors.

If your loved one has experienced a stroke, promote a safe and efficient recovery with help from Home Care Assistance. We are a leading provider of stroke care in Warren, NJ, and our caregivers can assist with mobility and exercise, provide transportation to therapy appointments, and help with a wide variety of important daily tasks. For more information on the senior care Warren families rely on, call one of our knowledgeable Care Managers at 908.450.9400 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.