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Aug 03, 2012

Yoga Improves Balance in Stroke Patients

It turns out that something as simple as yoga may have significant benefits for stroke victims.

Each year nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke, making it the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. Whether stroke impacts speech, coordination, balance, vision or even breathing, there is no question that recovering from a stroke is a long and difficult process. And regardless of how stroke effects a patient, the ultimate goal of rehabilitation is to help stroke victims regain as much strength and function as possible to help them return to normal, independent living. Fortunately, while there are a number of ways that doctors help patients recover after a stroke, it turns out that something as simple as yoga may have significant benefits for stroke victims.

A small study, recently published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, assigned nearly 50 stroke patients to either yoga or usual care for a total of 8 weeks. Those assigned to yoga participated in the activity twice a week for two months, and classes became more challenging with time. After assessing balance, coordination and fear of falling throughout the study, researchers found that those participating in yoga had much better balance and were less likely to fall, compared to those assigned to usual care. And perhaps most importantly, patients engaged in yoga had improved quality of life and less of a fear of falling.

Although this study was small, it is clear that activities like yoga can have a variety of health benefits, especially for patients who have had a stroke. Other studies have shown that yoga can help improve strength, flexibility and endurance in stroke patients, and improving balance is yet another important benefit this therapy can provide. And because yoga is a great source of physical activity that encompasses a mind-body component, it may have greater benefits than other types of exercise typically provide. So for patients recovering from stroke, incorporating yoga into a rehabilitation plan may not only help them regain strength and independence, but also improve quality of life.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How long does it take to recover from stroke?

  • The amount of time it takes to recover from a stroke depends on the type of stroke, the part of the brain impacted and the amount of brain tissue that was damaged. Some patients may be able to regain significant function and strength back through rehabilitation, while recovery may be limited for others with more permanent damage.

  • How can patients recover from stroke?

  • Stroke rehabilitation depends on the needs of each patient. Most patients undergoing rehabilitation after stroke require a treatment team with a variety of specialists, such as a neurologist, physical therapist and/or speech therapist. Treatment often begins before a patient leaves the hospital and may continue in a rehabilitation facility, outpatient unit or even home.

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