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Synergistic Movement

When I first had my stroke, I couldn’t do much.  I was really good at laying there.  But I had to go to physical therapy.  I didn’t want to, trust me.  In physical therapy one of their main goals was to get me walking again.  At first, whenever I tried to walk every muscle on my right side would flex.  This means that when I would try to walk(it probably happened at other times but I really noticed it with walking) my elbow would bend, my shoulder would come up, my wrist would curl, etc.  This is called synergistic movement and is NORMAL right after a stroke.  It GOES AWAY.  You should be told this but you may not be.  Synergistic movement doesn’t allow your muscles to work independently, everything contracts at the same time.  This is extremely distressing, I know.  I knew it would go away but it still really bothered me.  Also, some therapists might not be as educated as they should be about it.  Just go with the flow, it gets better.  A great blog, this post talks about synergistic movement.


My Speech – Dysarthria

There are a lot of things that can happen to your speech after a stroke.  It depends on where in the brain you stroked, how long it was before treatment, the severity of the stroke, etc.  Strokes are very individual.  I was diagnosed with Dysarthria.   I think this is what happens after a cerebellar injury.  Dysarthria is a motor problem.  This means that I have zero cognitive deficits so inside I’m normal but I have problems with pronunciation/articulation.  I speak a lot slower now,  I have problems in groups because of the volume of my voice.  I have less power to my voice.  Some sounds just don’t sound right because the coordination of all my muscles that produce sounds doesn’t work right.  Right after the stroke I was very ‘pitchy.’  Ever watch American Idol?  Now I understand what they mean when they say pitchy.  🙂  My voice was really high.  A lot higher than normal.  I used to have no inflection in my voice.  I was very monotone for a while.  I’m getting back my voice now.  I’m working on all these things in speech therapy.  The muscles of the voice are just like other muscles.  They’ll work better in time because the thing that controls them(the brain) is always undergoing changes.  However, you have to learn how to use these muscles properly.  You should never stop speech therapy if you have a speech disorder.  One major thing I’ve learned is that no matter what kind of speech disorder you have, you should learn how to breathe correctly using the diaphragm.  The diaphragm is a muscle, just like any other muscle, that controls your breathing and should be the foundation of your speech.  Any speech therapy you’re in should have a lot of focused diaphragmatic breathing exercises.  You should be taught to use the diaphragm in your speech.  If you’re not taught this, find someone else!  I like this post


The PFO Issue

I have a PFO.  If you found this post by searching for PFO, then you know what it is.  If you don’t know, PFO stands for patent foramen ovale.  It is a ‘hole’ in the heart.  The blood in the upper chambers of my heart (the atria) flows back and forth sometimes.  There should be a solid wall there separating them but in my heart there is a little open flap that allows the blood to flow straight across.  The medical term for this is shunting.  Shunting can produce a blood clot.  A PFO is present in about 25% of the population.  Most of the time,  people with this don’t know it and are completely symptom free.  There has been a long standing theory that having a PFO increases stroke risk.  My neurosurgeon, the one who opened up my skull, said that my PFO caused my stroke and that I should get it closed.  So, I was referred to a cardiologist.  He had the opposite opinion.  He said that the PFO probably had nothing to do with my stroke and the risks of having it closed outweighed the benefits.  So, I read the research (powerpoint presentation).  I agree with my cardiologist.  The research is pretty conclusive that a PFO does not increase stroke risk.  I didn’t have mine closed.  I chose not to close it and I have pretty much eliminated all other risk factors.  Here’s hoping no future strokes!


Treadmill for Stroke Recovery

I am of the opinion that one of the best things you can do for yourself after a stroke is buy a treadmill – if you can walk that is.  If you can’t walk yet leave it to the rehab professionals.  But, as soon as you can walk, buy a treadmill for your home.  You don’t have to go fast, go really slow if you need to.  Be safe, safety first.  A treadmill does a lot of things.  First, it gets you walking, this will improve your gait.   There are published research studies that say treadmill walking helps neuroplasticity.  This is the rewiring of the brain.   I was a lucky one – I could walk soon after my stroke.  So after a few months I bought a treadmill.  At first I walked a ton.  I just got on the treadmill everyday.  Now, this is my routine….a 5 minute warm-up followed by 30 minutes of intervals followed by 20-30 more minutes of just plain walking.  For more info on interval training go here.  I absolutely love my treadmill.


My Story :)

Hi everyone! The story of my stroke begins a little over a year ago.  I was at work as a physical therapist.  I had a very promising career ahead of me as I had just become “Mckenzie certified” after only 4 years of practice.  That’s a big deal in the PT world.  Then everything changed.  I had just arrived at work and I felt/heard something in my neck.  I thought it would go away but it didn’t.  It all happened very fast.  The next thing that happened was my legs stopped working and I collapsed.  Then I got really nauseous and vomited on the floor, several times.  Then I passed out.  Next thing I knew I woke up in the ICU 3 days later.  I had had a massive cerebellar stroke that affected both sides of my brain.  Really it was 2 strokes.  I was 30 years old.  I had a cranial decompression to allow my brain to swell.  So I was bald.  I knew right away – a bald head only means one thing – brain surgery.  I was more upset at the time about losing my hair, I had really nice hair.  🙂  I have a lot of deficits.  I have poor balance, an intention tremor, ataxia, and my speech is very messed up.  However, I have made a ton of progress in a year because I worked hard.  I refuse to settle for anything less than a full recovery.  I’m doing this blog because it will be therapeutic for me and I want other stroke survivors to know that there is hope if you work hard.  The brain is constantly changing and adapting, even as an adult and it happens forever.  So don’t believe anyone telling you that the way you are in 6 months/a year/2 years is how you’re going to be forever.  That’s malarky!  The reason I named this blog what I did is because there is a lot less information on the internet about cerebellar strokes.  I think this blog will help all stroke survivors but I especially want cerebellar stroke survivors to have this as a resource.  Here’s a good site.  Happy reading!  🙂