Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Saebo in the news...

I'm a fan of one of this blog's advertisers, Saebo. The two guys who started the company are brothers, both occupational therapists. (Find another set of brothers that are both occupational therapists and I'll send you a free copy of my book.) I like the culture that Saebo brings to stroke recovery. Everything they make has a commonsensical perspective engineered in. 

Saebo makes the SaeboStretch. Unlike static splints which hold the hand in a static position, the SaeboStretch allows the fingers to flex when they need to (often to protect the joints of the fingers). The 'Stretch then slowly pushes the fingers back to the desired position. 
Link here.

And, as it turns out, Gabrielle Giffords sports one!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stinking after droke

As stated before, I'm not a big fan of drinking after stroke. I found some interesting statements here about the issue:

The effects of alcohol may put you at further risk after a stroke, and you will need to review your drinking and consider cutting down, especially if you were a heavy drinker beforehand.There are a number of factors you need to consider – talk to your GP for more advice: 
  • Following a stroke you may be more vulnerable to alcohol and its negative effects such as sleep disturbance, poor balance and impaired speech. 
  • Alcohol may worsen mood swings and depression, which are common after a stroke. It may affect your memory and thinking, making you forgetful and less able to make sound judgements. 
  • If you are out after dark, you should remember that alcohol can reduce night vision by 25 per cent and slow down reaction times by 10-30 per cent. 
  • Alcohol acts on the kidneys, creating excessive amounts of urine, which may make you dehydrated. If you are suffering from headaches, the dehydrating effect of alcohol is likely to make them worse. 
  • Alcoholic drinks are high in calories that have no nutritional value. If you are less active than before your stroke, you will need to reduce your calorie intake (especially these ‘empty’ calories) to avoid becoming overweight. Alcohol may make it harder for your body to absorb essential nutrients such as vitamin B1 and calcium. If you are less active and not absorbing calcium properly, your bones may become weakened. 
  • Drinking alcohol may be harmful when taking medicines that are sometimes needed after a stroke. Ask your GP or pharmacist about whether you may drink at all and if so, what the sensible limits are for you. You may be advised to stop drinking for the first month or two after starting a new medicine so that your body can get used to its effects. 
  • If you are taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin, it may be important to establish a routine of what you eat and drink. If you do drink you should ask at your anticoagulant clinic about your alcohol intake and how much you can safely drink on a regular basis.
 By: "stroke recovery blog" "stroke blog"

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gotcha. Can't win, don't try.

Bill a stroke survivor has trouble putting on headphones. 

He is able to get the headphones on using just his "good" side. Here's how he does it: First an earpiece on the "good" side and then use the same hand to move the other over to his "bad" side ear. 

Now let's say instead of using only the "good side" he uses both sides. His "good side" hand picks up the headphones, and then his "bad side" hand grasps the other side of the headphones and he puts them on. But in order to get the "bad side" involved he has to do a bunch of weird movements. He hikes up his shoulder, pulls his arm away from his body, and uses an awkward grasp to put the headphone on his ear.

Which do you think would be better? Which would be better in the short run? Which would be better in the long run?

In the short run it may be better to do it with just the "good" arm. It might be quicker, and take less effort. 

But in the long run what would be the effect? First of all he'll never learn how to use both arms for that skill. Also, since he's only using the "good" side for that movement, all the other tasks that use similar movements would not be practiced. And a lot of things use that same movement (Brushing teeth and hair, shaving, feeding, etc.) So he'd have less practice specific to putting on headphones, and then less carryover of that task to other tasks.

But here's the funny part: There are a lot of therapists who believe that he should do it one-handed. The thinking is this: The movement needed to complete the task of both arms is "bad" movement. 

And, so the thinking goes, the more "bad" movement that you use, the more that "bad" movement will be "ingrained". Like a bad habit.

This idea, that "bad" movement should not be encouraged always struck me strange on the face of it. This is the thinking: "The more you move the worse you'll get." 

But everything we know about the brain suggests exactly the opposite. The more you practice something the better you get.

There is a weird assumption that is made: You will never try to move better, you will only use the "bad" movement forevermore. The idea is, survivors don't know what good movement is. Because survivors don't know what good movement is, you need a therapist there to correct you. Which... I don't know about you... sounds like it'll cost you a lot of money.

But let's say they're right. Let's say that if you do the task with both arms you would never do it "correctly." Now you have a decision to make. Do you do it "incorrectly" for the rest of your life, or do you not try to use the "bad" arm?

It was me, I would make the decision to use the "bad" arm. Why? Well first of all I stand a much better chance of learning to move the "bad" side better if I use it in every day tasks... every day. Second, movements from one task can feed forward to other tasks that used similar movements. So I might retrain not just for one task, but for a whole bunch of tasks. Third, I don't let the whole portion of my brain "lie fallow" and not do anything. The brain hates not doing anything. The brain goes through what's called "a pruning of the dendritic arbor." It's a fancy way of saying "use it or lose it." If a portion of the brain is not used, the neurons in that part of the brain start to shrink -- or "prune."

But there's another important reason to use any movement you have. Maybe, at the "end of the day" the task remains awkward and uncoordinated. So what? How many people play golf, enjoy it, but don't play perfectly (all of us)? How many people ski, and enjoy it, and don't have perfect form? What about music, or painting, or writing...

Bart: You make me sick, Homer. You're the one that told me I could do anything if I just put my mind to it.
Homer: Well now that you're a little bit older I can tell you that's a crock. No matter how good you are at something, there's always about a million people better than you.
Bart: Gotcha. Can't win, don't try.

 This is my suggestion: Continue trying to do everything. And every time you do it try to make it a little bit better.  

Everybody wants to be an expert before they start. But to become an expert involves a lot of hard work. May as well begin now...

 By: "stroke recovery blog" "stroke blog"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Function: You get what you want but not what you need.

Function. Function. Function. Function.
That's all you ever hear. "We're trying to get the patient functional." 
Why? 2 reasons: 

1. You want survivors to be functional. You want them to be able do every day, real-world tasks. When therapy ends, the therapist wants the patient to be able to do as much for themselves as they possibly can. Function is a good thing, no doubt. 

2. Generally, function is paid for. Lets say the goal is walking. If the patient is not walking, at some point, you have to end therapy. And with the ending of therapy comes the ending of payment.

But there's a problem with this "focus on function." I can be functional and walking, but require a cane an orthotic on my ankle. The cane is used to overcome the weakness of the affected leg. The orthotic on the ankle is used to overcome the inability to lift the foot. Focusing on function means overcoming a deficit. Sounds good, right? But if you are using a cane an orthotic have you really overcome the deficit? Maybe we shouldn't chew. We can put everything in a blender.

I've long been an advocate of a focus on recovery, not function. Think of recovery as a game of soccer. Function is a score of 1 to 0. You win. But there are two ways to win. One way to win is to pick up the ball with your hands and throw it in the goal. The other is training hard, practicing with your team, getting in good shape, practicing skills, getting in the game, and putting all the practice into, well, practice. Using the "good" extremity to accomplish goals (known as compensatory movement), orthotics, assist devices, etc. etc. does not lead to recovery. 

Very often function flies in the face of recovery area. For instance, a person may very well have some dorsiflexion (the ability to lift the foot at the ankle). But the movement is often weak and incomplete. Therefore it is "nonfunctional." And so it is ignored. And if a movement is ignored the portion of the brain representing that movement will get smaller. 

And so the ability to lift the foot will decrease. And so the movement is ignored even more. And so there is less brain involved, and so on and so on and so on. This process is known as learned nonuse.
 By: "stroke recovery blog" "stroke blog"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Therapy is upside down.

When a survivor first has their stroke the brain is very vulnerable. And because it's vulnerable the survivor shouldn't do very much. The first few days after stroke is a time to convalesce. There is a time to add intensity to the recovery effort. But during the first few days, generally referred to as the acute phase, is not when intensity should be attempted. There are more important things to do. Like saving as much brain is possible (the domain of medical doctors).
So what do therapists do during acute phase? Most therapists involved in acute care will tell you the same thing: "We do whatever they can." That is, whatever the patient is physically able to do is encouraged. But there is often not very much the stroke survivor can do. Yet therapy immediately after stroke is generous. There is often hours per day slated for acute care therapy. But that's not when hours are needed. Hours are needed during the subacute phase.

The subacute phase is usually defined as "seven days to three months." But this is actually a misrepresentation. The fact is, like anything with stroke, it's different for every survivor. Each phase, in fact, happens in a different time for each individual survivor. In any case, it's the subacute phase when intensive efforts towards recovery should begin. Yet for many stroke survivors there's actually a reduction in the number of hours of therapy during the subacute phase as compared to the acute phase. In this way, therapy for stroke survivors is upside down.

By: "stroke recovery blog" "stroke blog"

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