What is Hemiparesis?
Hemiparesis or one-sided (“hemi”) weakness (“paresis) affects about 8 out of 10 stroke survivors, causing weakness or the inability to move one side of the body. One-sided weakness can affect your arms, hands, legs and facial muscles. If you have one-sided weakness you may have trouble performing everyday activities such as eating, dressing, and using the bathroom. Rehabilitation treatments, exercises at home, and assistive devices can help with your mobility and recovery.
One-sided weakness in your arms, hands, face, chest, legs or feet can cause:
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty walking
- Impaired ability to grasp objects
- Decrease in movement precision
- Muscle fatigue
- Lack of coordination
Can Hemiparesis be treated?
It is possible for you to increase or regain strength and movement on the affected side with rehabilitation. Working with a physiatrist, physical therapist and/or occupational therapist has proven to have a favorable impact on hemiparesis and mobility.
A variety of treatments are used to help improve the use and movement in your affected arms and legs. These include the following:
- Modified constraint-induced therapy (mCIT). This therapy restricts use of a less affected part of your body, which forces you to use the weakened part of your body. Regular practice can improve nerve function.
- Electrical stimulation. Used in the treatment of one-sided weakness to enhance sensory awareness, strengthen a weakened body part (such as the arm, leg, hand, or foot) and improve range of motion.
- Cortical stimulation. An electrical stimulation of the part of your brain called the cortex. A tiny electrode is placed on the dura, the tough membrane that covers your brain. The electrode sends an electrical current to your brain while you undergo rehabilitation exercises.
- Imagery. Mental imagery or the process of imagining the movement of the affected part of the body activates areas of the brain and muscles as if you are actually doing an activity. The nerves in the brain involved in visualization and physical movement overlap, making this an effective activity when paired with other therapies in treating one-sided weakness.
- Assistive Devices. Braces, canes, walkers and wheelchairs can lead to increased strength and movement. An ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) brace can help control your ankle and foot. A physical therapist can recommend the appropriate device. Training in safety procedures and the proper use of orthotics, including proper fit and maintenance, is essential.
Tips to live with hemiparesis
In addition to rehabilitation treatment, exercise at home and assistive aids can help increase mobility. Repeated practice and regular activity will help increase control and flexibility and re-establish nerve circuitry. You can learn specific activities to do at home that will help continue recovery after inpatient therapy. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting these exercises.
Making home modifications such as the following can improve your safety:
- Grab bars
- Raised toilet seats
- Tub bench
- Hand-held shower head
- Plastic adhesive strips on the bottom of the bathtub
- Long-handled brushes, washing mitts with pockets for soap
- Electric toothbrushes and razors
Making simple lifestyle changes can help prevent falls and promote a healthier recovery. Some examples include:
- Remaining active
- Strengthening leg muscles and balance through exercises
- Wearing flat, wide-toed shoes
- Using a prescribed assistive device and not relying on furniture for support while walking
- Taking precautions when taking medications that cause drowsiness
- Paying close attention while walking