A stroke happens when part of the blood supply to the brain is cut off – usually due to a blood clot.
Whilst many people recover well from a stroke, it can take time, or in some cases, there can be some loss of function following damage to the brain.
Physical Activity after a Stroke
Some people who have had a stroke may need a long period of rehabilitation whilst others will recover more quickly.
Regular exercise is one way to reduce the risk of a further stroke and a rehabilitation nurse will help stroke patients with a tailored programme of physical activity.
Cycling for Stroke recovery
As a stroke affects the brain, most parts of the human body can be affected and the damage often takes the form of muscle weakness or paralysis. One of the standard rehabilitation treatments for a loss of strength or motor function caused by a stroke is exercise, and cycling – where appropriate – is among the best therapies available.
Where rider safety or decision making skills are compromised by a stroke, a trike with Carer Control™(where a pedestrian carer controls steering or braking instead of the rider) may provide a solution. Alternatively, a companion cycle in the form of a tandem trike or side by side trike from our Van Raam range is another excellent option.
Special gloves and wrist, elbow and forearm supports are all available to provide additional support for arms and hands, as are a variety of support solutions for the thorax, neck and head. The most important facet of cycling as a part of stroke rehabilitation or ongoing fitness, however, is the legs. Many similarities exist between the way we deal with Spina Bifida, and lower limb stroke damage, in that both involve weakness or paralysis of the legs – however with a stroke, only one leg may be affected. (You may also like to refer to Hemiplegia in our Cerebral Palsy resource).
It would be reasonable to assume that if one leg were affected with paralysis or significant weakness, that cycling would be impossible – but this is often far from the case. With a custom built machine that is personally attuned to the riders abilities and physiology, it is usually possible to pedal with just one leg, providing the weak leg is not stiff jointed or otherwise restricting articulation of the joints. However, this is severely challenged when a gradient is encountered as it is difficult to build the forward momentum that compensates for the missing thrust when you are cycling against the gravitational effect of the hill. To compensate for this, the solution is to have a pedal assisted battery powered motor drive that will compensate for the impaired or missing part of the pedal process. A feature of the motor drive also provides the rider with an easy way to pull away from a standing start to 4mph, at the touch of a button and without the need to pedal.
In conditions where feeling or function end below the hip but the hip itself is functional, a rider will, with the right provision, be able to cycle perfectly normally as the lion’s share of the pedal force comes from the hip.
From a practical perspective, trikes in general and adult trikes in particular, have traditionally had transport limitations. While it is possible to fold a machine for transport, this does nothing to reduce weight and very little for the overall footprint. Tomcat, however, is renowned for its transportation features, where the frame can be split in two, and the seat and wheels can all be removed in just a few seconds. Our new Connect™ system is of particular interest as it provides the automatic division and reassembly of essential control functions such as braking, gear changing, motor controls and many more electrical or mechanical functions besides. This means that critical controls such as the rear brake, gear selector, “stationary start” button and power control can all be fitted to the handlebars where they belong.
A stroke is a major milestone in anyone’s life, but cycling is one of the best therapies available for stroke rehabilitation and ongoing health and wellbeing. Very often cycling after a stroke will have hidden benefits, like making new friends, new interests and an independence you may never have expected.