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- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet; October 2008
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Post-Stroke Exercises for the Foot
A stroke is a medical emergency characterized a blocked or ruptured brain artery that interrupts the flow of oxygenated blood and nutrients to the brain. Of the 700,000 Americans that suffer from strokes each year, two-thirds survive because they received prompt medical treatment and therapeutic intervention to restore blood supply to the brain and minimize brain damage. Stroke survivors require immediate rehabilitation to reduce complications such as paralysis and loss of controlled movement, and to regain independence and mobility. Your physician may recommend mobility training to learn how to coordinate leg movements when walking and exercises to strengthen and stretch your leg muscles and improve your range of motion.
Toe Stand for Coordination
Many stroke survivors have decreased muscle strength in their legs and arms as a direct consequence of having a stroke or as a result of decreased mobility or paralysis following a stroke. Exercise is an essential part of gaining muscle strength in the legs and restoring mobility and coordinated leg movements. This exercise strengthens your calves and ankles and improves your balance and coordination. Enter the starting position by standing behind a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart, and place both hands on the back of the chair for support. Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, slowly stand on your tiptoes as high as possible. Hold this position for one second and, as you take another breath in, slowly lower your heels to the floor. Perform one set of 10 repetitions, once daily.
Stand on One Foot for Balance
Loss of balance and coordination is a direct consequence of a stroke in the cerebellum. An essential part of the rehabilitation process is improving coordinated movements in the leg, regaining confidence in your walking ability and reducing your risk of falls. Enter the starting position by standing behind a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart, and place both hands on the back of the chair for support. Bend your right knee and lift your right leg several inches from the floor, and transfer your body to the left leg. Hold this position for 10 seconds and relax. Perform one set of 10 repetitions once daily on both legs.
Active Foot Inversion and Eversion for Flexibility
A stroke can lead to foot drop, a medical condition in which the patient is unable to lift the front part of their foot as a result of muscle weakness or paralysis. Tendons and muscles in the legs and feet shorten and become immobile when they are not used regularly. Your physical therapist will recommend some exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles and ligaments in your affected foot, and increase flexion and range of motion. For a simple exercise you can do at home, sit upright in a chair and ensure that your back is firmly against the chair. Begin to slowly turn your affected foot inward and hold this position for five seconds. Relax and slowly turn your affected foot outward and hold for five seconds. Perform one set of 10 repetitions three times a day to improve flexion and range of motion in your feet.
Plantar Flexion for Strength
This exercise strengthens the plantar fascia, a thin ligament that connects the heel to the front of your foot and absorbs excess strain and stress placed on your feet. Sit upright in a chair and extend your right foot in front of your left foot. Place the heel of your right foot on the ground and point your toes upward. Place an exercise or resistance band around your right foot and hold the ends with both hands. Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, press the bottom of your right foot toward the ground. Take another deep breath and slowly return your flexed right foot to the starting position. Perform one set of 10 repetitions on both feet, once daily.
Jessica Wellons has been writing professionally since 2007. She is a scientific writer and fervent health enthusiast writing for The American College of Preventative Medicine and Writing Assistance Inc. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical medicine from the University of North Carolina and has a Master of Science in clinical pathology from the University of North Carolina.