The Stroke Association believe that there are in excess of 100,000 Strokes happen in The UK each year, and that there are 1.2 million Stroke survivors living in the UK today. Stroke happens when the blood supply is cut off to a part of the brain, thus killing brain cells. This can of course, change the way our body works, and alter the way we act and think. There are TWO different kinds of stroke:
Ischaemic strokes occurs when blood clots or fatty deposits for example, create a blockage to certain parts of the brain. The impact of such an event will obviously vary dependant upon which part of the brain is affected.
Haemorrhagic strokes occur when blood vessels burst within the brain, or on the surface of the brain.
The Stroke Association state that 85% of strokes are Ischaemic, but also that 10% of sufferers of a Haemorragic stroke will die before reaching the hospital. One of the key factors in reducing the numbers of stroke victims, is to primarily make people aware of the medical and lifestyle triggers that increase the likelihood of becoming a victim, and these include such things as reducing alcohol consumption, increasing exercise and stopping smoking. Equally as important, is to get the message out highlighting the warning signs that someone may be having a stroke, and this is where F.A.S.T comes in:
The Stroke Association website is full of incredibly useful and informative facts about prevention, detection and rehabilitation, and this can be accessed at:
I’ve already noted that thee are 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK, and some of these will go on to something close to full recovery, and with a bespoke rehabilitation programme, will be able to return to something akin to a ‘normal’ life. For many however, the aftermath of a stroke leaves them with significant mobility, stability and pain issues. This is, like in other issues of this blog where we examine various conditions, where the field of Orthotics can come in to assist not only in recovery, but also in rehab and part of the longer term plan to increase movement and maintain independence. If I can refer you back to my previous piece on foot drop, which is very common in stroke survivors…..:
Foot drop is a condition caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in the operation of lifting the front part of the foot. This is a particular issue when we walk, as this can lead to excessive tripping or falling, or pain caused as a result of the sufferer deliberately altering their gait pattern to avoid this. One common cause of foot drop, is an interruption of the signals from the brain to the peroneal nerve, and this is not unusual in people who have suffered a stroke.
There are several ways that this can be managed, but one way is with a merging of orthotic technology with electrical stimulation. This doesn’t simply brace the limb to improve mobility, but instead using Myo-orthotic technology, restores the functionality of the impaired limb by recreating a natural nerve and muscle response producing only a slight tingling. The WalkAide FES system is worn on the skin, removing the need for implant surgery. This sounds like it could be an ordeal, but this really is modern technology doing its bit towards improving mobility, without any kind of invasive treatment, and with only a small cuff needing to be worn around the leg.
It may be that the orthotist would suggest a more rigid brace, such as a Carbon Fibre AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis). Carbon fibre is an incredibly light, durable and hypoallergenic material. A carbon fibre AFO can provide a decrease in bulk and an increase in activity due to it’s ‘spring’ effect offering smoother and more natural gait. This option clearly doesn’t introduce the need for electronic stimulation, and whilst it might be a little more visible than the FES unit, is not bulky or unwieldy.
Some sufferers may find that a SAFO (Silicone Ankle Foot Orthosis) is more appropriate. This is a total contact silicone orthosis which incorporates the foot and ankle, and works by lifting the foot from above, as opposed to pushing from underneath as per traditional rigid braces. The SAFO gives support without interfering with normal biomechanics. This silicon brace is obviously less rigid, and can for some, be the perfect solution to the tripping issue.
So, if you are stroke survivor and you feel you could benefit from speaking to your Orthotist, then today is a good day to make that call.