Stroke Recovery with Pool Exercise

drpool-med-bookHello again, Dr. Pool here, Chief Evangelist for water exercise as the most useful form of physical activity. Practical too, if you are already a pool owner.

Suffering a stroke can be debilitating and traumatizing. It can cause injury and damage to both the body and the brain.

There are treatments that can help prevent and treat the after effects of a stroke. One such treatment for stroke victims is aquatic exercise. Simple movements and exercises done in chest deep water.

As per our usual format, we begin with an outline for the discussion on Stroke Recovery:

  1. Stroke – Background
  2. Symptoms and Prevention    
  3. Exercise and Swimming

bluecrossStroke Background Information

A stroke is known to be caused most commonly from a blood clot that forms in the brain artery. Treatment can vary from a medicines to dissolve the blood clot to medications that reduce some risk factors for strokes in the future.

Rehab is an important treatment factor as well. Disability can occur as a result of a stroke depending on the area of the brain that is most affected and how quickly treatment was given.

When a stroke occurs, it cuts off the blood supply to part of the brain. The brain needs constant supply of oxygen, contained in the blood. When the blood supply is cut off, the cells in the affected areas of the brain slowly die. Strokes are sometimes referred to as a brain attack.

The blood supply for the brain is delivered by four main arteries. These are the right and left carotid arteries and the right and left vertebrobasilar arteries. These branch into smaller arteries that supply blood to all of the areas of the brain.

The area of the brain and the extent of stroke damage depends upon which blood vessel was affected in the first place. If blood supply is lost from a main carotid artery, a larger area of the brain is affected – which in turn causes severe symptoms or even death. If a smaller branch artery is affected then only a small part of the brain gets damaged, which in comparison can have relatively minor symptoms.

What are the different types of strokes? There is the Ischemic Stroke, and the hemorrhagic stroke. In some cases there are also cases of stroke that occur from an unknown cause.

The Ischemic stroke is a condition caused from blood clot(s), as described above. It is the state of reduced blood and oxygen supply in part of the body. This occurs in 70% of all stroke cases. Blood clots usually form from pieces of fatty material known as atheroma, or arterial plaque. Atheroma patches form on the inside of arteries in many older people, and can flake off to form a blood clot.

In a hemorrhagic stroke, a damaged or weak artery can burst and bleed. The blood spills into nearby brain tissue, causing brain cells to lose oxygen and die. This occurs in 1 in 10 strokes, or 10%.

The subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the subarachnoid space, which is the narrow area between the brain and skull. It normally is filled with a cerebrospinal fluid. It is estimated that 5% strokes are due to this subarachnoid hemorrhage.

bluecrossStroke Symptoms and Prevention

Stroke Symptoms. These vary depending on what area of the brain was affected in particular. Symptoms can develop suddenly, including arm or leg weakness, ranging from paralysis of one side of the body to a mild clumsiness in one hand; a weakness and twisting of one side of the face, causing saliva to drool down; problems with coordination, vision, speech and balance; dizziness, confusion or headache. Loss of consciousness while rare, does happen in extreme cases.

If you believe you may be having or have had a stroke – get to the hospital right away, a brain scan is essential, to define the type of stroke you have had – ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. Treatment for these two can vary, which creates an urgency for a quick and accurate diagnosis.

Stroke Prevention. There are several factors that can be attributed to helping to prevent strokes. Risk factors can increase the chances of atheroma forming on the lining of the artery, which increases the chances of suffering a stroke. These factors include smoking, alcohol, high blood pressure, body weight, cholesterol level, diet, and activity level.

Chemicals in tobacco are known to damage and restrict arteries. Kicking the habit cuts the risk of having a stroke.

High blood pressure can likewise cause arterial damage. Treating high blood pressure has an profound effect on reducing the risk of having a stroke.

Simply losing weight is also recommended for reducing stroke risk. Physical activity should be regular, several days of the week. Just 30 minutes weekly is helpful for reducing stroke risk.

Cutting down on alcohol and consuming a healthy diet can also help bring down the risk. A healthy diet should have fruit and vegetables daily and include regular portions of fish. Finally, limit the amount of salt intake in your diet.

bluecrossStrokes and Swimming

Being proactive with prevention by activity and diet can be a great way to prevent a stroke in the first place. Exercise can also be helpful to the road to recovery, but what kinds of exercise is the most advantageous in this situation?

Studies have shown that regular aerobic activity that improves cardiovascular fitness and health after a stroke is consistent with that of recent consensus statements on exercise for able-bodied individuals. Many studies show a connection between paretic knee-extension torque and locomotion ability and  walking speed after a stroke.

A common occurrence after a stroke is experienced is muscle weakness and feeling a loss of limb control. Survivors of strokes work with therapists to regain the strength and control via targeted exercises. Exercises that are recommended include stretching, walking, bending and swimming. If the pool is accessible and there is a helper available, it would be safe to exercise in the pool.

The National Stroke Association actually states the swimming is one of the best exercises you can get for post-stroke patients. The water is a safe place to practice activities like walking. You can also improve balance while gaining a cardiovascular workout in the water.

Water is low-impact and that is easy on the joints and bones as opposed to the movement on land.

Get your Swim On, America!
Dr. Pool

Dr. Pool


"Stroke Health" N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014.
"Physical Activity and Exercise Recommendations for Stroke Survivors." Physical Activity and Exercise Recommendations for Stroke Survivors. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014.
"Celebrating30 Years." National Stroke Association. Http://, n.d. Web. 14 May 2014.
"Post-Stroke Exercises." LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 May 2014.





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