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Post-Stroke Exercises for Left Arm and Shoulder
A stroke can occur when a blocked artery or blood vessel ruptures or cannot deliver blood supply to the brain, causing brain damage. After suffering a stroke, you may find your left side is weakened or paralyzed. Post-stroke exercises for your left arm and shoulder will become an important part of the rehabilitation process to help you regain as much independence as possible.
A right-hemisphere stroke causes you to lose partial or total use of your left shoulder and arm. The right side of your brain controls the left side of your body. If you've sustain damage in this portion of your brain, you can experience not only left-side paralysis or weakness or your left side -- but also a change in spatial relations and an increase in impulsive behavior. A right-hemisphere stroke can lead to shoulder/hand syndrome; a case in which your left shoulder socket dislocates because of muscle atrophy. Exercises can help regain muscle, range of motion, and minimize symptoms such as tingling and pain.
Post-stroke exercises are part of the recovery process, and may be included as part of a physical therapy program in the hospital or at home following a stroke. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains that movement in the weakened left side of the body is encouraged as early as one to two days following a stroke, depending on the condition of the individual. Physical and occupational therapy to strengthen the left arm and shoulder and to regain as much range of motion as possible may continue for several months after the stroke.
Range of Motion Exercises
The left shoulder and arm can become more flexible and functional through range of motion exercises. The extent of paralysis will determine whether the exercises are active -- done by yourself -- or passive -- performed manually by a caregiver.
Shoulder movement exercises involve bringing your left arm up over your head as much as possible. Raise your arm forward and up and back down as one stretch; bring your left arm up and across the right side of your body as a separate exercise.
Bend your left arm at the elbow and try to touch your left shoulder to keep your elbow joint flexible. Perform similar wrist bends -- point your fingers to the ceiling and then down to the floor as you flex your wrist -- to strengthen your wrist joint.
Strength training may be a part of your recovery process if you have enough function in your left hand to grip. Researchers from Canada's University of British Columbia found that strength training improved both strength and function in the arm after having suffered from a stroke. Working with light hand weights, under the direction of your medical care providers, may also improve muscle tightness, or spasticity, that can affect your left side after suffering from a right-hemisphere stroke.
Typical exercises -- speak to your care provider to determine whether they are appropriate for your condition -- may include working with resistance bands. Stand on one end of a resistance band, or secure it to a chair leg if you do not have good balance or use of both legs. Hold on to the other end of the band with your left hand and bring your straight arm up as far as you can. Try to keep your arm level with your shoulder, so that your arm and shoulder form a 90-degree angle. Repeat 10 times, and then repeat the exercise so that your arm stretches out in front of you instead of to the side. Your physical therapist may also ask you to work on shoulder rotation by attaching the band to a stationary object on your right side. Pull on the band with your left arm, bringing your arm across your body.
Erica Roth has been a writer since 2007. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a college reference librarian for eight years. Roth earned a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from Brandeis University and Master of Library Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her articles appear on various websites.