What Can I Expect From Physical Therapy



Physical therapy (PT) after a stroke aims to help the stroke survivor to regain skills that were lost when part of the brain is damaged. The degree of disability that follows a stroke depends upon which area of the brain is damaged. The physical therapist will usually focus on helping the patient in regaining strength, balance, coordination and the ability to move and walk. Physical therapy cannot “cure” or reverse the brain damage, which was caused by the stroke. Participation with an early physical therapy program can, however, help the patient to achieve the best level of recovery possible.


PT in the acute care hospital begins as soon as the patient is medically stable, often in the first or second day of admission. If stable, the patient will be assisted out of bed to a chair. Patients progress from sitting to standing, to transferring and walking with physical therapy. Exercises may involve teaching the stroke patient how to coordinate leg movements, how to regain balance, or walking with an assistive device. Physical therapy sessions may also include reviewing good safety practices or involving the patient’s family to teach them how to help assist the patient.


As the time for discharge from the acute care hospital approaches, the staff will work with the patient and family to decide which type of rehabilitation will be best suited for the patient. This depends on many factors: if the patient lives alone or how much help is available to the patient at home, how safe the patient is when moving or walking, and how much therapy and activity the patient is able to tolerate. The rehabilitation options after discharge include:


  • Outpatient therapy – usually 2-3 times per week
  • Home care therapy – this would involve a therapist corning to your house, usually 2-3 times per week
  • Sub-acute inpatient rehabilitation – this therapy is usually provided in a nursing home, 3-5 days per week, for approximately 1 hour per day, with a goal of the patient returning to home.
  • Acute inpatient rehabilitation – this therapy is usually provided in a rehabilitation hospital, 5-7 days per week, for approximately 3 hours per day.