Stroke Encyclopedia

A stroke can be stressful enough - add all the new terminology to that experience and it can get quite tiring! Find some terms and resources below to help you along your recovery journey!

Helpful Definitions

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that originated thousands of years ago. It is based on the premise that a blockage or disturbance in the flow of the body's life energy, or “qi,” can cause health issues. Acupuncturists insert hair-thin needles to specific acupuncture points throughout the body to restore the flow of qi, balance the body’s energy, stimulate healing, and promote relaxation. According to TCM theory, there are over 1000 acupuncture points on the body, each lying on an invisible energy channel, or “meridian.” Each meridian is associated with a different organ system.  (Source)

Americans
with 
Disabilities
Act of 1990

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 12101) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964,[1] which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. In addition, unlike the Civil Rights Act, the ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.

Chiropractic Neurologist

Chiropractic Neurologists have advanced and extensive training in the field of Neurology. They are board certified through the ACNB (American Chiropractic Neurology Board) and are required to complete an additional 300+ hours of study and pass a vigorous 4-day exam to attain certification. They are trained in cutting-edge neuroscience, neurological pathways, and the most effective neurological therapies as science defines them. A Chiropractic Neurologist looks at the patient in a different light. It’s not just about pain and your spine. It’s about how your entire system works together to create the most optimal function for you day after day. Check out a couple articles from my doctor here: Part 1 | Part 2.

Aphasia

Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain-most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors, or from infections. 

Basal Ganglia

The area of the brain (on the right side, above the ear), that controls  control of voluntary motor movementsprocedural learninghabit learningeye movementscognition, and emotion

 

Any injury to the basal ganglia can have serious, potentially long-term effects on your movement, perception, or judgment. A stroke that disrupts blood flow to your basal ganglia could cause problems with muscle control or your sense of touch. You could even experience personality changes.

Blackout

This term, used here, doesn’t refer to alcohol-related blackouts. It refers to quick, short losses of consciousness when I was experiencing neurological problems many years ago. These problems were resolved by Dr. Trevor Berry, the only neurologist, including Mayo, who knew what it was, what was causing it and how to repair it. Check out a couple articles from him here: Part 1 | Part 2.

Bootcamp

Most neuro therapy clinics offer their patients the opportunity to engage in a week-long set of therapy sessions, some of which offer a 1-3 ratio of therapist to patient. From approximately 9am until 2pm, you work hand-in-hand with an occupational and physical therapist to improve your current recovery issues. Sometimes you bring your lunch and at other times, lunch is provided. There is no cost to you, as the clinic bills your insurance company!

Denial of Deficit

Simply, it means denial that you have a deficit. Resistance to one’s reality. Not accepting one’s current condition. An example would be if you’d had a neurological event and a month after this event, you decided to get in your car and drive it, because you’re “fine!” Another example would be refusing to attend therapy sessions, because “you’re fine, ” or “the therapy is juvenile, useless, or too simple to do any good!” This is a serious and common issue with stroke survivors, which needs to be monitored by one's caregiver and may require a consult with the survivor's neurologist.

Diaphragm

The diaphragm is the primary muscle used in respiration, which is the process of breathing. This dome-shaped muscle is located just below the lungs and heart. It contracts continually as you breathe in and out. It also has some non-respiratory functions as well. The diaphragm increases abdominal pressure to help the body get rid of vomit, urine, and feces. It also places pressure on the esophagus to prevent acid reflux. When your diaphragm is affected due to a neurological event, it affects your voice quality as well (healthline.net).

Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. Many different kinds of animals and humans use it to transmit information. It is used when the brain sends signals to the muscles in the body to make them move. It can make a person “feel good.” Dopamine is an important chemical found in the brain.

Dysphagia

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing or paralysis of the throat muscles. This condition can make eating, drinking, taking medicine, and breathing difficult. Many stroke survivors experience dysphagia or trouble swallowing at some point after a stroke. Difficulty swallowing is most common immediately after a stroke, but usually declines over time.

Edema

Swelling. After a stroke, most survivors experience a degree of inflammation in the brain- analogous to swelling after an injury, such as the noticeably swollen lump after an injury to the arm or leg. In my case, my affected hand (left) was swollen for 4-6 weeks, causing severe pain and the inability to function in therapy. Painful hot and cold baths and an edema glove were prescribed for my hand until it finally subsided.

Foot Drop

A gait abnormality in which the dropping of the forefoot happens due to weakness, irritation or damage to the common fibular nerve including the sciatic nerve, or paralysis of the muscles in the anterior portion of the lower leg. It is usually a symptom of a greater problem, not a disease in itself. Foot drop is characterized by inability or impaired ability to raise the toes or raise the foot from the ankle (dorsiflexion). Foot drop may be temporary or permanent, depending on the extent of muscle weakness or paralysis and it can occur in one or both feet. In walking, the raised leg is slightly bent at the knee to prevent the foot from dragging along the ground. Foot drop, or drop-foot, can be caused by nerve damage alone or by muscle, stroke, or spinal cord trauma,, abnormal anatomy, toxins, or disease. This disorder causes loss of function of the motor and sensory neural pathways. In this case, foot drop could be the result of paralysis due to neurological dysfunction.

Laser Therapy

There are lasers and then there are lasers! Erchonia lasers are state-of-the-art recovery devices for survivors. My chiropractic neurologist, Dr. Trevor Berry this laser on my brain, combined with oxygen treatments to enhance the laser’s effectiveness, to reduce inflammation and provide healing for my stroke-damaged brain.

Lock Boxes

It's literally a life saver! A lock box is a rectangular plastic box that is affixed to your home, near the front door. It holds a spare key to the door, in case of an emergency.

 

Local fire departments sell these to homeowners, install them, and have a key to open the box, if needed in an emergency.

Naturopath

Naturopathic doctors are educated and trained in accredited naturopathic medical colleges. They diagnose, prevent, and treat acute and chronic illness to restore and establish optimal health by supporting the person's inherent self-healing process. Rather than just suppressing symptoms, naturopathic doctors work to identify underlying causes of illness, and develop personalized treatment plans to address them.

Neurotransmitter

A chemical substance that is released at the end of a nerve fiber by the arrival of a nerve impulse.

Neuroplasticity

The word neuroplasticity is the combination of 2 words: neuron and plasticity. Neurons are the nerve cells in your brain; and plasticity means that you can mold or reorganize something. Therefore, neuroplasticity refers to the process of reorganizing the neurons in your brain. This mechanism is how your brain can heal itself after a stroke and recover from the damage. After a stroke, certain parts of the brain can become damaged depending on the type of stroke and where it occurred. The functions that were once stored in those parts of the brain become damaged, it can make movement difficult. That’s where neuroplasticity comes into play. Neuroplasticity allows your brain to rewire functions from damaged areas of the brain over to new, healthy parts of the brain. A different, healthy area of your brain is capable of picking up the slack. When mobility is affected, for example, new areas of the brain can learn to control the affected (impaired) side. For example, if the part of your brain responsible for motor control becomes damaged, it can make movement difficult. While neuroplasticity is the #1 fact every patient should know about, you also need to know how to activate it.

 

 

 

 

Occupational Therapist (OT)

Occupational therapy practitioners address the physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges brought on by a stroke, and they can help stroke survivors engage in the things they want and need to do, including routine household tasks.

Panic Attack

A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least one of the four following symptoms: palpitations, pounding heart, accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling and/or shaking.

Plasminogen Activator (tPA)

Intravenous injection of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This injection of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), also called alteplase, is considered the gold standard treatment for ischemic stroke.

In some instances, tPA can be given up to 4.5 hours after stroke symptoms begin.

Physical Therapist (PT)

Physical Therapy practitioners address the most basic tasks and movements first, such as safely moving from a bed to a chair while protecting your impaired arms from injury. They will gradually progress to exercises and tasks that improve balance, help you relearn basic coordination skills, and retrain your brain to perform functional tasks such as grasping objects and walking.

 

Psychotherapy

Wikipedia describes it as talk therapy, a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and can increase well-being and healing. Problems helped by psychotherapy include difficulties in coping with daily life; the impact of trauma, medical illness or loss, like the death of a loved one; and specific mental disorders, like depression or anxiety. There are several different types of psychotherapy and some types may work better with certain problems or issues. Psychotherapy may be used in combination with medication or other therapies. For me, having a supportive, objective, well-trained inspiring professional continues to be essential to my recovery. I highly recommend it!

Recovery Device

This term can mean anything from an AFO (Assistive Foot Orthosis) to a Bioness L300Go to assist with maintaining foot and ankle control for walking to ensure foot drop doesn’t cause one to trip and fall.

 

Additionally, a cane or walker can also be considered an assistive or recovery device.

 

As it pertains to the affected hand/arm, the term could mean anything from a simple neoprene hand orthotic to a Bioness H200.

 

Basically, anything that assists a stroke survivor with recovering the use of the affected portions of the body could be called a recovery device. 

 

Serotonin

Serotonin is a hormone found in the human body that transmits signals between nerve cells and causes blood vessels to narrow.

 

According to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia, serotonin is also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine. It is most concentrated in the midbrain and hypothalamus areas of the brain, but it is also found in intestinal tissue, blood platelets and the mast cells of the immune system.

Subluxation

A condition that occurs when a joint begins to dislocate. However, instead of the joint surfaces completely losing contact, a subluxation can be considered a "partial dislocation."

 

A subluxation is often the result of a traumatic or acute injury.

Spasticity

After a stroke, damage to the brain can block messages between muscles and the brain causing arm and leg muscles to cramp or spasm (spasticity), kind of like a bad charley horse. This will limit your coordination and muscle movement. This post-stroke condition makes daily activities such as bathing, eating and dressing more difficult.

Spasticity can cause long periods of strong contractions in major muscle groups, causing painful muscle spasms. These spasms can produce:

  • A tight fist

  • Bent elbow

  • Arm pressed against the chest

  • Stiff knee

  • Pointed foot

 

FYI, I’ve recently learned from the book, Stronger After Stroke by Peter G Levine,  that spasticity actually begins in the spinal column, not the brain.  The spine sends an alert to the brain, “this appendage has been damaged, so we need to protect it and keep it safe!”

Victim Syndrome

Victim mentality is an acquired personality trait in which a person tends to recognize themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to behave as if this were the case in the face of contrary evidence of such circumstances. Victim mentality depends on clear thought processes and attribution. Why do people play the victim?  Individuals who habitually indulge in self-victimisation (also known as playing the victim) do so for various reasons: to control or influence other people's thoughts, feelings and actions; to justify their abuse of others; to seek attention; or, as a way of coping with situations.

 

Panic Attack

A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least one of the four following symptoms: palpitations, pounding heart, accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling and/or shaking.

Helpful Resources

Stroke Studies