Almost 750,000 Canadians are affected by stroke, and it is one of the leading causes of death, illness, and disability in Canada. A stroke can happen to anyone at any time, and each person is affected differently. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted and damage is done to the brain cells. There are two ways that this can happen: a blood clot travels to the brain, inturrupting blood flow and oxygen, or a when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or breaks, causing internal bleeding. The extent of the effect of a stroke depends on the amount and area of the brain damaged. High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke, though other risks include smoking, obesity, diabetes, and high cholestrol. Your risk of stroke can be lowered by keeping blood pressure under control, quitting smoking, being physically active, and maintaining a healthy diet.

Symptoms of a Stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg (particularly on one side of the body)
  • Sudden poor vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking and understanding speech
  • Trouble walking, poor balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no cause

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

Common Problems After a Stroke

  • Weakness, paralysis, poor coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in posture and balance
  • Altered sensation in limbs (pain, numbness, pins and needles)
  • Inattention/neglect to one side of the body 
  • Urinary or bowel incontinence
  • Speech problems, difficulty reading & writing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Memory problems, poor problem solving skill, limited attention span
  • Depression, anxiety, or mood swings
  • Visual problems
  • Difficulty with daily tasks

A physical therapist can help prevent further problems, minimize difficulties, maximize abilities, and help you regain your independence!

What to Expect During Physical Therapy

Physical therapists work with you, your family, and your healthcare team to meet your specific needs and create meaningful goals for your recovery. We combine education, excerise, hands on treatment, and therapeutic techniques to help you get back to your day-to-day activities. Physiotherapists help to:

  • Improve strength, balance and coordination through targeted exercises to get you back to enjoying life
  • Reduce pain that limits daily acitivities
  • Improve heart function to reduce the risk of future disease
  • Increase energy, confidence, and independence
  • Support you in lifelong movement, health, and wellness

How to Access a Physical Therapist

You can call directly to make an appointment with a physiotherapist. Depending on your health insurance, you may need a doctor’s referral to get reimbursed. You can find a physiotherapist in:

  • Private clinics
  • Hospitals and acute care settings
  • Long term care facilities
  • Home care
  • Recreation centres
  • Community therapy programs
Students from the School of Physiotherapy created a printable info sheet on this topic in partnership with LiveWell Stroke Exercise Program and the Saskatchewan Physiotherapy Association. Click here for the info sheet.