In England, over 150,000 people have a stroke every year. It is the third largest cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. The brain damage caused by strokes means that they are the largest cause of adult disability in the UK. People over 65 years of age are most at risk from having strokes, although 25% of strokes occur in people who are under 65. It is also possible for children to have strokes.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Like all organs, the brain needs oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function. If the blood supply is restricted or stopped, essential nutrients and oxygen are not reaching the brain and so brain cells are damaged or begin to die. This can lead to brain damage and possibly death.

There are two main causes of strokes:

  • Ischaemic
    This is the most common cause and accounts for over 80% of all strokes. Here, a clot in one of the blood vessels restricts or stops the blood supply.
  • Haemorrhagic
    Less common and where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts and creates a bleed in the brain which causes brain damage


There is also a related condition known as a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA). This occurs where the supply of blood to the brain is temporarily interrupted, causing a 'mini-stroke'. This is often a warning sign that a stroke is coming.

How does stroke affect people?

Depending on the type and severity, as well as the individual, a stroke can affect people in many different ways. It can also cause a variety of different symptoms and the combination of these is unique to each person. Some common symptoms are:

  • Impaired mobility
  • Weakness or paralysis, often on one side of the body (called hemiplegia)
  • Reduced awareness of the weaker side of the body
  • Mild to severe pain
  • Tight limbs
  • Altered sensation
  • Reduced balance
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Speech or language problems
  • Incontinence issues
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulties with understanding, memory, thinking, judgement, planning and foresight
  • Visual problems.

How can physiotherapy help with stroke?

If you have had a stroke, physiotherapy is just one treatment to help you manage your everyday activities, and improve your quality of life. We often liaise with our colleagues in other professions, such as Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Orthotists, in order to get the best outcome for our clients.

At Physio Matters, we perform a full and detailed assessment of each person's symptoms, and suggest the most appropriate treatment to meet your goals. We work with you on the most suitable areas, which include helping you to:

  • Improve balance and walking
  • Increase ability to move in bed
  • Increase ability to sit and stand
  • Reduce muscle spasms, pain and stiffness
  • Retrain normal patterns of movement
  • Increase arm and leg function
  • Increase energy levels
  • Increase independence and quality of life
  • Reduce the risk of falls


It is commonly thought that most recovery takes place in the first 6 months after a stroke has occurred. Whilst it is true that many changes do occur in the first 6 months, it is important to remember that significant improvements can still be made many years afterwards. Recovery can be a lengthy and challenging journey and neurological physiotherapists have a vital role in stimulating further progress.

The scope for recovery depends on many different factors:

  • the location and size of the stroke
  • the health of the person before they had the stroke
  • other health conditions
  • age
  • the ability to understand and remember things
  • the willingness of a person to engage in physiotherapy and work on their rehabilitation in between sessions

Why do I need a neurological physiotherapist?

Neurological physiotherapists are specialists and trained to understand the effects and interactions of stroke symptoms. They can identify where rehabilitation should be focused, what aspects of the person's daily life are particularly important to them, and how best to achieve their goals through targeted physiotherapy.

For some, this treatment may focus on maintaining the independence you currently have, for others it is to improve beyond this, for example to help you retrain your body so you can stand up by yourself, improve your balance when walking, get into a chair, bed or car, or regain some hand function which could help with eating, dressing and so on. For other people, physiotherapy will be aimed at preventing future health problems.

Remember, even after a stroke, there is much that can be done to restore your quality of life, and help you with movement, speech and day-to-day living.

Case Study

Video coming soon.

More information

For lots of useful advice and contacts regarding stroke, visit the Stroke Association website on:

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