Recovering from stroke with the comforts of home

July 13, 2018

Rather than going to therapy, what if therapy could come to you? Traditionally, most stroke patients have to stay at a rehab center or travel to the closest one near their home. On top of having new disabilities and having to work out harder than ever, they have to arrange for their own transportation or live in an unfamiliar place. But now, technology may have found a way to make things easier. It’s called telerehabilitation. Telerehab uses devices such as a cell phone or computer to provide supervised therapy for patients. You can access a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech pathologist from the comforts of your own home!

You’re better off at home

There are many perks to being home. First of all, you get to sleep in your own bed. You don’t have to worry about packing any of your belongings. Secondly, you don’t have to go anywhere. When you’ve suffered from a stroke, you might find it hard to get a ride somewhere or even take the bus. Staying home gives you the luxury of focusing all your energy on performing beneficial exercises rather than expending it on tasks like these.

For some people, something like telerehab might be their only option. People who live in the countryside may not have easy access to a stroke rehab center. Imagine trying to take a 3- hour road trip every day when you are still recovering from a stroke! Others might live in developing countries, where there simply aren’t as many resources to go around. These are the patients that really need telerehab, and they are also the ones who are experiencing more and more strokes!

Losing face time…is it really okay?

You might be wondering – can a video or cell phone app really replace the value of an in-person therapist? Scientists asked the same question too. To find out, they searched for all the available evidence out there regarding telerehabilitation. Searching through almost 40 years worth of scientific literature, they found 22 relevant studies. Their analysis revealed that most of the time, telerehabilitation was just as effective, if not better, than traditional face-to-face therapy.

Most of these studies looked at how telerehabilitation helped patients with their motor function compared to standard rehab. Others also looked at the effects on depression, brain function, speech, and other cognitive measures. They found that telerehab was just as good or better at helping patients with motor function, brain cognition, and depression compared to in-person training.

What to expect if you try it

Interested in trying telerehabilitation? It’s not a bad idea! It looks like there are many benefits to using telerehabilitation. It’s more convenient and seems to work just as well as regular rehab. However, do know that there are still limits to these studies. Of course, they can only look at specific exercises, and every stroke patient’s needs are different. Always discuss with your doctor and therapist whether this might be a good option for you. If you do decide to try telerehabilitation, you can expect to be using videos, your computer, or a cell phone to do your supervised training. These exercises could be for motor function, brain games, or even depression therapy. When it comes to stroke rehab and technology, it seems like the possibilities are endless!

The lead author for this study was Dr. Fred Sarfo, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology,  Kumasi, Ghana.

Editorial note:

Interested in trying telerehabilitation? This study shows that it’s not a bad idea.

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