Maximising recovery of your arm & hand after a stroke

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Maximising recovery of your arm & hand after a stroke

3rd September, 2018

Maximising recovery of your arm & hand after a stroke

It’s incredibly common for people to experience problems with their arm after suffering a stroke. Common things you may be experiencing include;

  •  Pain – such as painful shoulder


  •  Weakness, especially difficulty reaching up high or opening up the fingers, or difficulty with fine motor skills


  •  Coordination issues  – such as rigidity & co-contraction in the muscles eg. trouble straightening the elbow


  •  Spasticity – increased tension and tone resulting in clenched hand and flexed elbow and wrist


  •  Changes in feeling / sensation – difficulty feeling textures and shapes making fine motor skills such as doing up buttons and turning pages of a book difficult.

You may experience these problems more obviously through functional tasks; such as having difficulty opening jars, hanging out washing, putting your shoes on or even perhaps doing your hair- The point is; it can be quite detrimental on your daily routine and quality of life! After a stroke, shoulders, arms and hands can also become tight and painful which interferes with postures during sleep and can also affect standing posture and walking.

You may have even gone through months or years of rehabilitation already, but may be dissatisfied with your progress, the good news is that help is still available after discharge from hospital! Best practice guidelines recommend that people recovering from stroke link with stroke upper limb exercise programs in the community to maximise their recovery potential 1. Over recent times there has been important discoveries around ways to promote recovery of movement after stroke.

Evidence shows that changes to your pain, strength and movement are achievable in the chronic stages of stroke 2. Generally the priorities early in rehabilitation are often focussed on medically managing risk of further stroke and any medical complications, as well as mobility and safe discharge from hospital. This can result in limited access to arm therapy in the early stages, so you may have not even discovered your arm’s rehabilitation potential! However, we strongly encourage you to seek assessment and advice about your arm as early as possible. This way you more likely to avoid weakness and muscle/joint tightness which can limit your recovery potential. We also like to avoid the phenomenon of ‘Learned non-use’, where your brain learns to use your other arm for all activities which can inadvertently reduce the therapeutic practice time needed for your stroke affected arm and hand. Research is constantly showing that targeted neurological rehabilitation can assist with upper limb movement, function and reduce pain if present.

We are a neurological physiotherapy clinic based in Adelaide, South Australia. At Advanced Neuro Rehab (ANR) we have a strong interest in upper limb recovery and rehabilitation. We can assess and identify the specific reasons why you may be having difficulties and devise suitable stroke recovery exercises  which may combine hands on therapy, sensory retraining, strengthening as well as task specific independent practice. We have specific training in many approaches to upper limb of therapy, which allows us to create the most suitable rehabilitation plan with you. Our staff also have training in Constraint Induced Movement Therapy from the original developer from the University of Alabama, USA.  Our staff are therefore uniquely qualified to set you up with the best exercises as part of your individualised rehabilitation plan to do at home. Supervised group therapy is also a focus of ours, to improve intensity and access to rehabilitation. ANR have also been involved in developing and teaching post-graduate education into Stroke Rehabilitation at Flinders University since 2005, so we have plenty of interest in this specialist area! We can help you reach your maximum stroke recovery potential!

If you are interested in discussion your arm’s rehabilitation potential further, please talk to us. We would be happy to talk you through how we can help you progress your rehabilitation further.

We are also hosting a special education education event on ‘Stroke Recovery’ soon. Please email to register your interest.


  1. Foundation, S. Clinical guidelines for stroke management 2017. (2017).
  2. Krakauer, J. W. & Thomas Carmichael, S. Broken Movement: The Neurobiology of  Motor Recovery After Stroke. (MIT Press, 2017).