The Role of Occupational Therapy in Stroke Recovery

The month of February is all about awareness for heart-related conditions, such as heart attack or stroke. For those who have experienced a debilitating, life altering event like a stroke or a bad accident, occupational therapy (OT) will be a major component of the rehabilitation team. For patients with cardiovascular diseases (CVD), the focus of occupational therapy is either to improve or compensate for the underlying impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions in order to return the patient to their prior level of functioning.  For example, many will need training just to learn how to do up the buttons on their shirt or take a bath.  OT will either help in training to recover those lost skills, or help with adaptive devices to regain independence in these daily activities if those functions can not be returned.

What is CVD?

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a group of non-communicable disorders affecting the heart and blood vessels such as Coronary Heart Disease, Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA)/Strokes, Peripheral Arterial Disease,  Aortic Disease, etc. They are the foremost causes of death and disability worldwide, but it’s important to note that the majority of CVD-related deaths take place in low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria.  That tells us that proper management can go a long way in reducing mortality and improving overall quality of life.

A very common CVD, Stroke, is highly prevalent in Nigeria and arises either from the narrowing of the vessels supplying blood to the brain, or from the rupture of those blood vessels (most commonly due to high blood pressure and malformations). This attack leaves the patient with several deficits based on the affected part of the brain including the following:

  1. Contralateral Hemiplegia/Hemiparesis – Weakness or paralysis of the opposite half of the body.  For example, if the stroke occurred in the right side of the brain, the would affect the left side of the body.
  2. Hemianesthesia – Loss of sensation or inability to feel touch on one side of the body
  3. Homonymous Hemianopsia – Loss of vision in one eye.
  4. Apraxia – Difficulty with motor planning.  The person understands what they want to do but the brain is unable to pass that message to the body to follow through.  For example, a person may want to stand from a chair and they have the strength needed to do so, but they are not able to because of the brain is not telling the body how to move to accomplish that task.
  5. Aphasia – Limited ability to speak or understand speech (this can also impact reading and writing).
  6. Impaired Cognition  – Difficulty learning, remembering, making decisions, concentrating, etc.
  7. Impaired Emotional Status – It’s common to experience feelings of irritability, forgetfulness, carelessness or confusion. Feelings of anger, anxiety or depression are also prevalent.

How Can Occupational Therapy Help?

Occupational Therapy specializes in helping people resume their normal routine after they are medically stable. Following a comprehensive occupational therapy evaluation, client-centered goals are developed and treatment modalities may include:

  1. Positioning
  2. Postural control training
  3. Motor learning approaches
  4. Specific activities of daily living (ADL) retraining (this can include dressing, bathing, toileting, feeding, etc)
  5. Prescription of assistive devices and other technology
  6. Cognitive-perceptual retraining
  7. Visual skills retraining or adaptation
  8. Splinting to prevent contractures (severely shortened, nonfunctional muscles) or to improve functional performance.


Get in touch with PCA today if you have had a CVA/Stroke. Our occupational therapist will evaluate and work with you to restore your functioning and independence to help you Live Well, and Live Fully!


2 responses to “The Role of Occupational Therapy in Stroke Recovery”

  1. Ukeme says:

    Please I run an home care service for the elderly. How can we patner together for better services

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