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Balance and movement after a stroke

Physiotherapy (physio) can help your movement and balance following a stroke. A physiotherapist can help you to:

  • Strengthen your muscles
  • Practice things you are finding difficult
  • Improve stamina
  • Cope with dizziness to help your balance if you need it

Practice is crucial to success! It is important to practise in different places and for short periods at a time. Being able to keep your balance in the gym does not mean you will be able to do so in a busy street or around the home where there are distractions. Once you’re steady on your feet, you should try keeping your balance while doing various activities, such as picking up objects.

Being overtired makes you more likely to fall so only practise for 20 minutes at a time to begin with and build things up slowly.

It is natural to be nervous about falling, and for your family and friends to be afraid that you may hurt yourself. However, try not to let the fear of falling stop you getting mobile again. If you are nervous you may be more likely to fall. It may be safer to practise when somebody else is around, so they can help you.

Individual training and devices

Your physiotherapist may suggest some different types of training or devices that may help you become more confident about walking. These may include:

  • Ankle foot orthoses: braces placed on your ankle and foot to improve balance and walking
  • Physical fitness training: regular, planned exercise routine, such as walking.
  • Treadmill training: to increase your walking speed. Only used if you are able to walk at the start of your treatment.
  • Muscle strength training: to build up your muscle strength.
  • Repetitive task training: repeating everyday tasks, such as going from sitting in a chair to standing.
  • Functional electrical simulation: small electrical currents activate nerves in parts of your body affected by your stroke to improve drop-foot (difficulty in moving your ankle and toes upward).

The above treatments are not suitable for everyone. Your physiotherapist will work with you to decide what is best for you.

Note on walking sticks: Walking sticks are very individualised aids and therefore you should talk to your physiotherapist about whether a walking stick would help you in any way.

Safety tips

  • Make sure your home is well lit to reduce the risk of falling.
  • Remove rugs and obstacles that could make you trip or throw you off balance.
  • Wear sensible, well-fitting shoes.
  • Practise walking in short bursts: never when you are tired.
  • Focus on an object in the distance to help steady yourself.
  • Install an alarm system to summon help if you fall.
  • Talk to your GP if you have any worries or lasting problems.