Strokes: Effects, Limitations and Care

stroke

A stroke can happen at any time and to anyone. Known as a “brain attack,” strokes occur when blood flow is cut off to certain areas of the brain. When brain cells are deprived of vital oxygen, they die.

Nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke each year. It’s the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and the leading cause of adult disability in the nation.

The effects and limitations of a stroke vary from person to person. Some make a full recovery, while others are left with permanent damage.

Types of Strokes

There are several different types of strokes, including:

Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes obstructed. This is the most common type of stroke, accounting for 87% of all cases.

The primary cause of an ischemic stroke is atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty deposits build up in the lining of vessel walls. These deposits can cause blood clots that obstruct blood vessels and cut off oxygen to certain areas of the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel in the brain ruptures. There are two main types of weakened blood vessels that can cause this type of stroke:

  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
  • Aneurysms

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the leading cause of hemorrhagic strokes.

TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)

A TIA is also known as a “mini stroke,” and it’s caused by a serious but temporary clot. These are considered warning strokes, and they should be taken very seriously.

Because a TIA doesn’t typically cause permanent damage, they’re usually ignored. But they should be viewed as a serious warning that a full-blown stroke may be in the near future.

Cryptogenic Stroke

A cryptogenic stroke is a stroke with no determinable cause. Extensive testing may be required to try and determine the cause of the stroke.

Brain Stem Stroke

Strokes that occur in the brain stem are called brain stem strokes. This type of stroke can affect both sides of the body, and cause the victim to remain in a “locked-in” state. When this happens, the patient is usually unable to speak or even move below the neck.

The Effects of a Stroke

The cell death brought on by a stroke affect the abilities linked to the area of the brain affected by the attack. For many people, this means losing memory function or muscle control.

The brain is a complex organ, and it’s difficult to know for sure how a stroke will affect a person until after the attack. It will primarily depend on the area of the brain and how much of the tissue has been impacted by the stroke.

It’s important to remember that the left side of the brain affects the right side of the body and vice versa.

Here’s what can happen when a stroke impacts each side of the brain:

Right Brain

  • Paralysis on the left side of the body
  • Vision problems
  • Memory loss

Left Brain

  • Paralysis on the right side of the body
  • Speech or language problems
  • Memory loss

If the stroke occurs in the brain stem, both sides of the body can be affected, depending on the severity of the injury.

Limitations

Depending on the location and severity of the stroke, victims may have to face several challenges and limitations moving forward.

Physical limitations are the most obvious effect. Paralysis may occur, which can make it difficult or impossible to walk without a mobility device. Stroke victims may also experience:

  • Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Spasticity
  • Visual disturbances
  • Shoulder weakness
  • Hand and wrist weakness
  • Decreased sensation
  • Difficulty determining where their body is in space

These physical limitations will undoubtedly impact the person’s daily life and activities. Rehabilitation may be able to restore some or all function, depending on the severity of the injury.

Stroke victims may also experience communication challenges or cognitive deficits, such as difficulty solving problems. Depending on the location of the stroke, the victim may suffer from aphasia, a condition that affects the person’s ability to understand or process language. Speech and attention issues may also occur. Right-brain strokes can impact a person’s problem-solving skills.

Other limitations aren’t clearly visible or audible. Many stroke victims suffer emotional and behavioral changes following the attack. Depression is common among stroke victims, and many lose their self-confidence following the attack.

Care

Stroke care and treatment will depend on the type of stroke.

Ischemic Stroke

The primary goal when treating this type of stroke is clot removal. Clots can be removed either with medication or through mechanical treatments.

Alteplase IV r-tPA is a medication treatment that is considered the “gold standard,” according to the American Stroke Association. Also known as alteplase, this drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ischemic strokes. It is administered via an IV in the arm, and it works to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the affected area of the brain.

Unfortunately, most people don’t arrive at the hospital quickly enough for this medication to be as effective as it could be. Early detection of the stroke can help maximize the benefits of the drug.

Doctors can also attempt to remove the clot manually through either a mechanical thrombectomy or an endovascular procedure. This procedure requires doctors to use a stent retriever (a wire-cage device). A catheter is sent up through an artery in the groin to the blocked artery in the brain. The stent then opens and grabs the clot.

In some cases, doctors may use special tubes to remove the clot.

The procedure must be performed within six hours of the stroke symptoms, but some benefits may still be experienced if performed within 24 hours of onset.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

With a hemorrhagic stroke, the goal is to stop the bleeding. It’s also important for doctors to understand the cause of the stroke.

In most cases, hemorrhagic strokes are caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Mechanical treatments may be used to stop the bleeding. A small catheter may be sent up through a major artery in the leg or arm to the brain tissue. This allows the surgeon to see the problem. Once the source of the bleeding is identified, a mechanical agent can be deposited to prevent further rupture.

How Does a Pressure Mattress Work? How Do They Prevent Pressure Sores?

alternating pressure relief mattress

Alternating pressure relief mattresses are key when trying to relieve pressure sore pain or stop pressure sores from forming in the first place. Traditional mattresses are static, so if a person lacks mobility and cannot shift their weight properly or roll over in the middle of the night, pressure mattresses can help.

You can find full replacement systems that completely replace a traditional mattress, or you can choose an overlay system.

Overlay systems allow you to keep your current mattress and put a mattress topper on the existing mattress that is 2-5 inches in depth. Either options will work well for someone at high risk of bed sores or that already has bed sores and is trying to find relief.

What is a Pressure Mattress?

If you’re suffering from a pressure sore, a pressure mattress is designed to increase your comfort and support stress points. A regular mattress allows for stress points to stop pressure ulcers, or bed sores, from occurring.

Bone protrusions are key areas where this pressure will build and lead to a sore.

Sores can be small, or they can be allowed to persist and grow large in size. Pressure mattresses often use air to allow for this pressure to be relieved. The skin is allowed to heal if you have a pressure sore, and if a person is going to be bed ridden, these beds can help prevent pressure sores from occurring.

How Does an Alternating Pressure Mattress Work?

Pressure ulcers occur when a person remains immobile, unable to turn or shift in the bed. If a person is allowed to stay in the same position, these ulcers will begin to develop.

These mattresses work by relieving pressure on key points, but there are different mattress types that work slightly differently:

Reactive Surface Mattresses

A reactive mattress is one that is made of memory foam, and it works by relieving pressure by evenly distributing the person’s weight. They respond to a person’s body weight.

These mattresses are a good option to prevent bed sores, but they do not provide the comfort and needs for someone that has higher than a Grade 2 ulcer.

Static mattresses are best used when a nurse or caregiver repositions the person often. Otherwise, you may want to choose one of the other mattress options below.

Active Surface Mattresses

An active surface mattress is one that changes to help relieve pressure and allow the healing of the ulcers. These mattresses offer a dynamic surface where pressure is redistributed often and this is often done with air-flow.

Pumps attach to the mattress and are usually on the footboard of the bed.

The pump will inflate and deflate cells. When bed sores have been allowed to develop to Grade 3 and 4 sores, these mattresses allow for the best relief. The mattress and corresponding air pockets will continually move, allowing for no turning or repositioning of the person.

Air mattresses are recommended when a person needs more than manual repositioning.

Hybrid Mattresses

Hybrid mattresses combine your reactive and active mattress surfaces. These mattresses are versatile, and they offer alternating air cells with a foam mattress topper. The foam provides optimal comfort, while the alternating portion of the mattress keeps pressure relief high.

The hybrid mattress is a great option to help a person stop pressure sores from occurring in the first place. If a person does not have any mobility, they may want to use the active surface mattress instead.

Why Pressure Mattresses Help People with Pressure Sores Sleep

I have had a severe bed sore before, and when you’re in a traditional bed, the pressure is still placed on the area where the pressure sore occurred. My sore was on my tailbone, and since you cannot control your actions while sleeping, I kept laying on my back.

Nurses would turn me, and air “donuts” were placed under my tailbone to help alleviate the pressure.

I had to have surgery to correct the problem because it was allowed to progress, but pressure mattresses helped relieve pain before and after surgery. These mattresses keep pressure off of key pressure areas – in my case, the tailbone.

Since pressure is relieved, the body can begin to heal and stop the sore from progressing.

The static mattress, or your memory foam mattress, is only a good option when you have a very minor sore. Otherwise, hybrid or alternating mattresses will provide the relief that a person with a Grade 3 or Grade 4 pressure sore needs to sleep well at night.

And since the alternating pressure reduces the need to be turned, it will reduce a person’s need for a caregiver to turn them every few hours.

It’s almost impossible to sleep when a caregiver comes into the room every few hours in the middle of the night to turn you to sleep well. Pressure mattresses allow you to sleep better at night and remain comfortable during the day.

How To Have a Quick and Safe Recovery from a Broken Ankle

elderly woman using crutches

A broken ankle is one of the most common bone or joint injuries people experience. In fact, the incidence of ankle fracture is about 187 fractures per 100,000 people each year. An ankle fracture can happen to anyone at any age regardless of their activity level.

Regardless of the cause or severity of the fracture, it’s important to pay special attention to the recovery stage.

Broken Ankle Recovery Time

How long does the recovery process take? That will depend on the severity of the injury. It can take 6-12 weeks for a broken ankle to heal, but it may take longer if the injury is especially severe.

Your recovery time will also depend on the level of activity you want to return to. It will take longer to return to running and intense exercise than it will take to return to walking and other daily tasks.

With a stable ankle fracture, most doctors will recommend keeping weight off of the foot (using crutches, a boot, or another mobility device) for four to six weeks before going to physical therapy.

Typically, physical therapy starts after two months. Most patients are able to get up and walk around at this point, but it’s still too early to resume athletic activity.

It can take three to four months for the injury to heal enough for you to return to low-impact exercise.

In cases of an unstable ankle fracture, where surgery is required, the recovery timeline can be much longer – nine months to one year.

4 Tips for a Safe and Successful Recovery

Regardless of how long your recovery will take, it’s important to take care of yourself and follow your doctor’s recommendations to avoid re-injury. Use these four tips for a safe and successful recovery.

1. Rest and Pain Medication

Symptoms of broken ankles include pain, swelling, tenderness and bruising. To manage your symptoms, follow the PRICE protocol: protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. You may need to do this for several days until the swelling comes down.

Talk to your doctor about pain management. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as naproxen or ibuprofen, may help keep your pain under control. With more complex or severe fractures, a more aggressive pain-management protocol may be required.

2. Avoid Weight-Bearing Activities

During the recovery phase, follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to weight-bearing activities. Depending on the severity of the injury, doctors may allow weight-bearing right away. A more severe injury may require you to wait several weeks before putting any weight on the injured foot.

When you are able to return to weight-bearing activities, make sure that you don’t overload the bone. It may be weeks or months to regain full bone strength.

Follow your doctor’s recommendations for activities and movement. Don’t resume daily activities, sports, work or other leisure activities until your doctor gives you the go-ahead to do so.

3. Perform the Doctor-Recommended Exercises to Rebuild Strength

Make it a priority to perform the doctor-recommended exercises to start rebuilding strength in your ankle when the time is right. Your doctor may recommend a combination of stretching, range-of-motion and strengthening exercises.

For more complex recoveries (e.g. after surgery), you may need to work with a physical therapist.

4. Call Your Doctor for Concerns

Talk to your doctor right away if there are any complications during your recovery, such as a fever, numbness, color changes in your ankle or foot, swelling or the inability to move your toes.

Mobility Options During Broken Foot Recovery

Mobility aids can help make your recovery go more smoothly while allowing you to return to your daily activities.

There are a couple of different types of mobility aids available for ankle injuries, including crutches and knee walkers.

Traditional Crutches

Traditional crutches will allow you to move around while keeping weight off of your injured ankle. However, there are many drawbacks to using crutches, such as:

  • They require the use of two hands
  • They’re difficult to use if you have balance issues
  • They can cause pain in the arms and hands
  • They don’t allow you to keep your ankle partially elevated

There are hands-free crutches, which solve many of these problems. But they still require a learning curve and are not ideal for people with balance issues.

Hands-free crutches wrap around the upper leg and a platform to rest the knee. The platform keeps the foot elevated while providing some stabilization.

Knee Scooter

Knee scooters, or knee walkers, are a great alternative to traditional crutches. They’re efficient, they don’t require as much upper body strength as crutches, and they allow you to keep your ankle elevated.

The main drawback with a knee scooter is that you cannot use it on stairs, uneven terrain or slopes.

With any type of ankle injury, it’s important to remember that recovery takes time. The body has a remarkable ability to heal itself, but healing won’t happen overnight.

Allow yourself the time to recover properly – without rushing. Overdoing things prematurely may cause re-injury and extend the recovery process even longer.

Yoga for Coccyx and Tailbone Pain Relief

yoga stretch for the lower back

Tailbone, or coccyx, pain can make it difficult or impossible to carry out your normal routine. Situated at the bottom of the spine, the tailbone helps support the pelvis.

Coccyx pain can be caused by an injury, prolonged sitting or childbirth. The level of pain can range from a dull ache to sharp pain. Severe pain can make it difficult to sit or rise from a seated position.

Stretching the tailbone can help ease the pain and alleviate tension in the area. Yoga is a great way to stay flexible and in shape and is also an effective tool for treating problem areas like your tailbone and coccyx.

Yoga Tailbone Pain Exercises and Stretches

There are several yoga stretches and exercises that target this hard-to-reach area, including:

1. Side Angle Pose

Side angle pose, known as parsvakonasana, strengthens the legs while stretching out the side body. Parsvakonasana activates the entire spine, stretching the tailbone in the process.

How to Get into the Pose

  • Start at the front of your mat, feet together.
  • Send your left leg back a few feet, ensuring that the outer edge of the foot remains parallel to the back edge of the mat. The heel of your right foot should be in line with the arch of your left foot.
  • Bend your right knee, taking care not to extend it over the front ankle.
  • On an inhale, lift your arms up so that they are parallel to the ground.
  • On the exhale, bend your right elbow and lower your forearm to rest on your thigh.
  • Extend your left arm up toward the sky.
  • Allow your gaze to follow your arm, or keep it on the ground if your neck is tight.
  • If you want to go deeper, stretch the right arm up along the ear. Make sure that your torso is open. Don’t allow your upper body to collapse.
  • Hold the pose for five breaths.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

2. Bow Pose

A gentle stretch for the lower back, bow pose (danurasana) strengthens your tailbone and tendons. It’s an ideal backbend for beginners because there’s less of a risk of collapsing into the lumbar spine.

How to Get into the Pose

  • Lie down on your stomach with your arms out to the side and your forehead on your mat.
  • Bend your knees and stretch your arms out behind you to grasp the outside of your ankles. Don’t worry if you can’t reach your ankles; just reach towards them.
  • On an inhale, lift your torso while grasping (or reaching for) your ankles. Send the bottoms of your feet up towards the sky.
  • For a deeper stretch, use a seesaw motion to push your feet up higher and lift your chest higher.
  • Hold for five breaths before lowering down to the ground.
  • Repeat this stretch two to three more times.

3. Sun Bird Pose

Sun bird (chakravasana) may be a simple pose, but it’s a great way to strengthen the lower back while stretching the tailbone.

How to Get into the Pose

  • Start down on the floor. Come to all fours. Your wrists should be under your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Feel free to place a blanket under your knees for added support.
  • On an inhale, lift your right leg and extend it straight behind you. Take care to keep your hips in alignment.
  • On the exhale, round the back and bend the knee towards your forehead.
  • On an inhale, return back to the starting position (your left leg behind you).
  • Move with your breath and repeat this movement five times.
  • Switch to the other side, and repeat the entire cycle.

4. Reclining Pigeon Pose

Reclining pigeon pose alleviates tension in the hips and pelvic area. At the same time, it alleviates tension in the lower back and provides a gentle massage to the spine.

How to Get into the Pose

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Bend your knees, keeping the soles of your feet on the ground.
  • Cross your left foot over your right knee, ensuring that your knee is sticking out to the side.
  • With your left foot flexed, thread your left arm through your leg and reach behind the hamstring on your right leg.
  • Hug your legs toward your chest while opening your left knee, stopping when you feel discomfort.
  • Hold for five breaths.
  • Switch sides.

These stretches will help alleviate tension and pain in the tailbone while strengthening your back muscles. Strengthening the supporting muscles in and along the tailbone and hips – which can also be achieved with these exercises – can help prevent future pain.

After stretching for months and strengthening the supporting muscles, you can expect to be able to relieve pain, ease muscle tension and reduce inflammation. The goal of your stretching and exercise routine is to alleviate the pressure and pain that is causing you discomfort when sitting.

It’s important that you remain in a range of motion that will not cause further injury or pain when stretching. You can also incorporate the use of cushions, massages and posture adjustments to further alleviate pain.

Coccyx Pain Relief Pillow

Yoga can help ease the pain and help get your back and tailbone feeling normal again, but you probably want some immediate relief to help you cope until then. Coccyx cushions are a great way to keep you off of your tailbone and promote blood flow and healing. They are inexpensive and provide a quick and effective pain relief solution.

Can Castor Oil Help with Psoriasis?

person rubbing castor oil on skin

An estimated 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis, a common inflammatory skin condition that causes scaly, dry patches of skin.

Conventional treatment options include steroids, anti-inflammatory medications and immunosuppressive drugs. Because many of these drugs cause unwanted side effects, sufferers often seek out alternative, natural treatments to help ease their symptoms. Castor oil is one of the most commonly-recommended natural treatments for psoriasis.

But what does science have to say? Can castor oil really help with this skin condition?

What is Castor Oil?

Castor oil is the extracted oil from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. People have been using this vegetable oil for thousands of years.

The seeds, known as castor beans, contain a toxic enzyme called ricin, but this enzyme is deactivated during the heating process when creating castor oil. The deactivation of ricin makes the oil safe for use.

In fact, castor oil is commonly used as an additive in food, skin care products and medications. Ancient Egyptians used to burn castor oil as fuel in their lamps, and they also used the oil to treat eye irritation.

Today, castor oil is still used as a natural treatment for many common skin conditions.

There are three main types of castor oil:

  • Black castor oil: Produced by roasting the beans before pressing them.
  • Cold-pressed castor oil: Pale-yellow in color, this oil is cold-pressed to extract the oil.
  • Hydrogenated castor oil: Waxy and brittle, this form of castor oil is commonly used in personal care products and cosmetics.

In addition to psoriasis, castor oil is often used:

  • To keep skin moisturized. Castor oil is naturally moisturizing and softens the skin.
  • To move things along in the digestive system. Castor oil is perhaps best known for its use as a laxative. It’s often used to treat temporary constipation, but taking too much of the oil can lead to cramping and diarrhea.
  • To keep the scalp and skin healthy. The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of castor oil make it a great remedy for dandruff and other skin conditions, such as acne, dermatosis and eczema.
  • To kill bacteria. Castor oil may have the power to kill Candida albicans, a type of yeast that causes infections in the body.

Castor Oil and Psoriasis – What Science Says

Some research indicates that castor oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, which may help ease psoriasis symptoms.

An animal study found that ricinoleic acid, the main component of castor oil, has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Because psoriasis is considered an inflammatory condition, castor oil’s ability to ease inflammation may make it a practical treatment option.

Psoriasis can also make you more susceptible to skin infections, so the anti-bacterial properties of this oil may help prevent infections or speed up the healing process.

Many naturopaths believe that castor oil has immune-boosting properties, but there is no research to support this theory.

Potential Side Effects and Risks

Although castor oil is considered a relatively safe home remedy, it’s not without side effects and potential risks.

Studies have shown that castor oil is safe for topical use on the skin. However, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to the oil. Symptoms may include itching, hives, swelling and a skin rash.

If you experience an allergic reaction when using castor oil, seek medical attention immediately.

Experts recommend doing a patch test on the skin before applying the oil liberally to your body. Patch tests can help reduce the risk of an allergic reaction and help gauge your body’s response to the oil.

To perform a patch test:

  • Dab a small amount of the oil onto a small area of the skin.
  • Wait 24 hours.

Check for side effects during the 24-hour waiting period. If you notice any irritation or discomfort, avoid using the oil.

How to Use Castor Oil for Psoriasis

Despite the lack of scientific evidence of its effectiveness, castor oil is still a relatively safe home remedy for people battling psoriasis and other skin conditions.

Most people apply the oil directly to the skin using cotton wool. Because this is a thick oil that isn’t easily absorbed by the skin, it may be best to apply the oil before bed and allow it to soak overnight.

Castor oil can be applied to any area of the skin, including the scalp. In fact, many people also swear by castor oil for hair growth and scalp health.

Castor oil can also be diluted with another oil, such as olive or coconut oil. Diluting the castor oil may make it easier for the skin to absorb it. Coconut oil also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, which may further help with psoriasis symptoms.

If you plan to dilute the oil with another oil, you can also add essential oils to your mixture. There are many essential oils that offer soothing, anti-bacterial effects that may help ease your symptoms, including:

  • Lavender
  • Tea tree
  • Geranium
  • Peppermint

These essential oils have cooling, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, all of which can benefit the skin and help in the treatment of psoriasis.

Some people add baking soda to their castor oil treatments, which may boost the anti-inflammatory effects of the oil. Add just a pinch of baking soda to create a paste.

Alternative Remedies for Psoriasis

If castor oil is not giving you the effects that you want, an alternative remedy may help.

One of the most effective ways to keep psoriasis in check for the long-term is to learn your triggers and avoid them.

Many lifestyle and diet choices can cause flare-ups, including:

  • Food sensitivities and allergies
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Medications
  • Skin damage
  • Stress
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Avoiding your triggers will help keep flare-ups to a minimum. If you do experience a flare-up, it may be easier to deal with the symptoms.

Aloe vera gel may provide soothing relief, and taking fish oil supplements, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may help keep inflammation away. Keeping the skin moisturized can further help prevent scaly patches and keep your skin healthy.

Castor oil is a generally safe remedy for psoriasis that can be used in conjunction with other treatments to keep your symptoms in check. Consult with your doctor before adding castor oil to your treatment regimen.