Facts on & Massage for Strokes

Stroke: The sudden death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen, caused by blockage of blood flow or rupture of an artery to the brain. Sudden loss of speech, weakness, or paralysis of one side of the body can be symptoms. A suspected stroke may be confirmed by scanning the brain with special X-ray tests, such as CAT scans. The death rate and level of disability resulting from strokes can be dramatically reduced by immediate and appropriate medical care. Prevention involves minimizing risk factors, such as controlling high blood pressure and diabetes. Abbreviated CVA. Also known as cerebrovascular accident.

When the brain’s blood supply is inadequate, a stroke results. Stroke symptoms (for example, loss of arm or leg function or slurred speech) signify a medical emergency because, without treatment, blood-deprived brain cells quickly become damaged or die, resulting in brain injury, serious disability, or death. Call 9-1-1 if you notice stroke symptoms developing in someone.

Initial symptoms of a stroke can occur in someone suddenly. Know these signs of a stroke:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty understanding or confusion, especially with simple tasks
  • Difficulty with muscle strength, especially on one side of the body
  • Numbness, especially on one side of the body
  • Severe headache
  • Vision changes (in one or both eyes)
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Facial droop on one side

The F.A.S.T. test was designed in 1998 to help ambulance staff in the United Kingdom quickly assess stroke. It takes into account the most common symptoms of stroke and is designed to help quickly assess a stroke with very little training.

F.A.S.T. Test

  • F means face: If one side of the face droops, it’s a sign of a possible stroke
  • A means arms: If the person cannot hold both arms out, it’s another possible stroke sign
  • S means speech: Slurring words and poor understanding of simple sentences is another possible stroke sign
  • T means time: If any of the FAS signs are positive,

Remember the FAST test for stroke. The “T” in FAST also means the longer the brain is blocked from its blood supply (usually due to a blood clot), the greater the brain damage possible.

For many patients, the time limit to diagnose and treat such a clot is usually within 3 hours (some physicians suggest a bit longer). In some qualified patients, the use of a clot-busting drug may be used to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow. Not all patients qualify for this treatment. There are also some risks like bleeding associated with this treatment that may cause problems.

Strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability in people.

There are two main types of strokes (ischemic and hemorrhagic) and they are treated differently. They are often emergently diagnosed by a head CT scan (or an MRI scan).

This slide shows a CT scan of an ischemic stroke, which is responsible for about 80% to 90% of all strokes. Ischemic strokes are caused by clots that reduce or stop blood flow to the brain. The clot may develop elsewhere in the body and circulate to become lodged in a blood vessel in the brain, or the clot may originate in the brain.

Ischemic strokes are usually divided into two main subtypes: thrombotic and embolic.

Thrombotic Stroke

Nearly half of all strokes are thrombotic strokes. Thrombotic strokes are caused when blood clots form in the brain due to a diseased or damaged cerebral artery.

Embolic Stroke

Blood clots also cause embolic strokes. However, in the case of embolic strokes, the blood clot forms in an artery outside the brain. Often these blood clots start in the heart and travel until they become lodged in an artery of the brain. The physical and neurological damage embolic strokes cause is nearly immediate.

This picture shows a hemorrhagic stroke using an MRI image. The circle inset outlines what composes a hemorrhagic stroke. A blood vessel in the brain breaks open, and blood escapes into the brain under pressure, compressing other blood vessels and brain cells causing damage and death. This bleeding into the brain is difficult to stop and is more likely to be fatal. There are two types of hemorrhagic strokes: intracerebral and subarachnoid.

Intracerebral Stroke

“Intracerebral” means “within the brain,” and it refers to a stroke caused by a diseased blood vessel bursting within the brain. Intracerebral strokes are usually caused by high blood pressure.

Subarachnoid Stroke

A subarachnoid hemorrhage refers to bleeding immediately surrounding the brain in the area of the head called the subarachnoid space. The main symptom of a subarachnoid stroke is a sudden, severe headache, possibly following a popping or snapping feeling. Many factors can cause a subarachnoid stroke, including head injury, blood thinners, bleeding disorders, and bleeding from a tangle of blood vessels known as an arteriovenous malformation.

Mini-Stroke (TIA)

“Mini-strokes” (also termed transient ischemic attacks or TIAs) are temporary blockages of blood vessels in the brain. TIAs can produce mild stroke symptoms that resolve. TIAs often occur before a stroke happens, so they serve as warning signs that the person may need stroke preventive therapy.

Mini Stroke Symptoms

  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Paralysis
  • Facial droop
  • Vision loss

Mini Stroke Treatment

Treatment for a mini-stroke may include medication, changes in lifestyle, and possibly surgery to reduce the chances of another stroke occurring.

Common causes of stroke come from blood vessels both outside and inside the brain. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can occur when plaque (deposits of cholesterol, calcium, fat, and other substances) builds up and narrows the vessel, making it easy for clots to form and further occlude the vessel. The clots can break free only to travel to and block smaller vessels inside the brain. The blood vessels inside the brain itself can accumulate this plaque. Occasionally, weakened vessels can burst and bleed into the brain.

Common conditions that increase a person’s risk for strokes include high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity. People can reduce stroke risks by addressing these problems.

People can also reduce their stroke risk by altering some aspects of their lifestyle. For example, people who stop smoking, begin a consistent exercise program, and limit their alcohol intake (two drinks per day for men, one per day for women) can decrease their risk.

One of the best ways to reduce stroke risk is to eat a diet that has low fat and low cholesterol to reduce the chance of plaque formation in blood vessels. Foods high in salt may increase blood pressure. Cutting back on calories can help reduce obesity. A diet that contains a lot of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, along with more fish and less meat (especially red meat) is suggested to lower stroke risk.

Unfortunately, there are some risk factors that people cannot control, such as the family history of strokes, gender (men are more likely to have a stroke), and race (African Americans, Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives all have increased risk for strokes). In addition, women who get strokes are more likely to die from the stroke than men.

Emergency stroke treatment depends on the type of stroke and the underlying health of the patient. Ischemic strokes are treated by methods designed to remove (dissolve) or bypass a clot in the brain, while hemorrhagic strokes are treated by attempts to stop the bleeding in the brain, control high blood pressure, and reduce brain swelling. Hemorrhagic strokes are more difficult to treat.


Aspirin is part of a group of drugs called antiplatelet agents. Antiplatelet agents like aspirin help prevent blood cell fragments from sticking together and forming clots and are therefore helpful in preventing some forms of stroke. The American Heart Association recommends taking aspirin within two days of an ischemic stroke to reduce the stroke’s severity. For those who have had a mini-stroke, a doctor may recommend daily aspirin treatment.


TPA is a clot-busting drug that can be used to treat ischemic strokes. It is given through the arm as an IV and helps dissolve blood clots and improve blood flow through areas of the brain blocked by clots. TPA may help if it is used within three hours of a stroke taking place.

Strokes that cause long-term damage are usually severe and/or not treated or treated after large sections of the brain have been damaged or killed. The type of damage depends on the location in the brain where the stroke occurred (for example, the motor cortex for movement problems or the brain area that controls speech). Although some problems will be permanent, many people that do rehabilitation can regain some or many of the abilities lost in the stroke.

If a stroke damages a person’s ability to use language and to speak or swallow, rehabilitation with a speech therapist can help a person regain some or most of the abilities they lost initially with the stroke. For those who have severe damage, rehabilitation can provide methods and skills that can help a person to adapt and compensate for severe damage.

Physical therapy is designed to improve a person’s strength, gross coordination, and balance. This type of rehabilitation helps people, after their stroke, regain their ability to walk and do other things like using stairs or getting out of a chair. Regaining fine motor skills like buttoning a shirt or using a knife and fork or writing a letter are activities that occupational therapy is designed to aid.

Some people have problems coping with their new disabilities after a stroke. It is common for people to have emotional reactions after a stroke. A psychologist or other mental health professional can help people adjust to their new challenges and situations. These professionals use talk therapy and other methods to help people with reactions such as depression, fear, worries, grief, and anger.

The methods previously discussed that may prevent or decrease a person’s stroke risk are essentially the same for people who have had a stroke (or TIA) and want to prevent or decrease their chances of having another stroke. In summary, quit smoking, exercise, and if obese, lose weight. Limit alcohol, salt, and fat intake and get into the habit of eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and more fish, and less meat.

Medications are usually prescribed for people with a high risk of stroke. The medicines are designed to lower risk by inhibiting clot formation (aspirin, warfarin, and/or other antiplatelet medicines). Also, antihypertensive medications can help by reducing high blood pressure. Medications have side effects, so discuss these with your doctor.

There are some surgical options for stroke prevention. Some patients have plaque-narrowed carotid arteries. The plaque can participate in clot formation in the artery and can even shed clots to other areas in the brain’s blood vessels. Carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure in which the surgeon removes plaque from the inside of the arteries to reduce the chance of strokes in the future.

Some doctors also treat plaque-narrowed carotid (and occasionally other brain arteries) with a balloon on the end of a narrow catheter. Inflating the balloon pushes plaque aside and increases the vessel’s lumen (opens up the vessel). This opened artery then is reinforced (kept open) by an expandable stent that, when expanded, becomes rigid.

About two-thirds of people (over 700,000) that have a stroke each year survive and usually need some level of rehabilitation. Some who get clot-busting drugs may recover completely, others will not. Many people who have disabilities after a stroke can function independently with therapy and rehabilitation methods. Although the risk of having a second stroke is higher after the first stroke, individuals can take the steps outlined in previous slides to reduce this risk.


What is a medical stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in minutes. A stroke is a medical emergency, and prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can reduce brain damage and other complications.
What are the 4 types of strokes?
  • Ischemic Stroke.
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke.
  • Transient Ischemic Attack (Mini-Stroke)
  • Brain Stem Stroke.
  • Cryptogenic Stroke (stroke of unknown cause)
What happens when a person has a stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.
Are there warning signs days before a stroke?
The signs of a stroke often appear suddenly, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have time to act. Some people will experience symptoms such as headache, numbness, or tingling several days before they have a serious stroke.
Can the brain repair itself after a stroke?
Fortunately, damaged brain cells are not beyond repair. They can regenerate — this process of creating new cells is called neurogenesis. The most rapid recovery usually occurs during the first three to four months after a stroke. However, recovery can continue well into the first and second years.
What is a silent stroke?
A silent stroke refers to a stroke that doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms. Most strokes are caused by a clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The blockage prevents blood and oxygen from reaching that area, causing nearby brain cells to die.
Which side of the brain is worse for stroke?
The terms Left Brain Stroke and Right Brain Stroke refer to the side of the brain where the obstruction causing the stroke occurs. There is not a worse or better side to have a stroke on as both sides control many important functions, but a more severe stroke will result in amplified effects.
Does having a stroke shorten your life?
When compared to members of the general population, a person who has a stroke will, on average, lose 1.71 out of five years of perfect health due to an earlier death. In addition, the stroke will cost them another 1.08 years due to reduced quality of life, the study found.
What’s the worst stroke to have?
Hemorrhagic strokes are extremely dangerous because the blood in the brain can sometimes lead to further complications such as hydrocephalus, increased intracranial pressure, and blood vessel spasms. If not treated aggressively, these conditions can lead to severe brain damage and even death.
What does the hospital do for stroke?
If you get to the hospital within 3 hours of the first symptoms of an ischemic stroke, you may get a type of medicine called a thrombolytic (a “clot-busting” drug) to break up blood clots. Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is thrombolytic. tPA improves the chances of recovering from a stroke.
What is considered a massive stroke?
A massive stroke commonly refers to strokes (any type) that result in death, long-term paralysis, or coma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists three main types of stroke: Ischemic stroke, caused by blood clots. Hemorrhagic stroke, caused by ruptured blood vessels that cause brain bleeding.
Can you feel a stroke coming?
Sometimes a stroke happens gradually, but you’re likely to have one or more sudden symptoms like these: Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side. Confusion or trouble understanding other people.
How can I prevent strokes?
The best way to help prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol. These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems like: arteries becoming clogged with fatty substances (atherosclerosis) high blood pressure.
What is stroke level blood pressure?
Blood pressure readings above 180/120 mmHg are considered stroke-level, dangerously high, and require immediate medical attention.
What time of day do most strokes occur?

Both STEMI and stroke are most likely to occur in the early hours of the morning—specifically around 6:30 am.
What percentage of stroke patients make a full recovery?
Although just 10% of people fully recover from a stroke, 25% have only minor impairments and 40% have moderate impairments that are manageable with some special care.

Massage for Strokes

Massage therapy will not increase a person’s risk of another stroke, however, certain precautions would need to be addressed such as the presence of blood clots and/or the patient taking blood-thinning medication, which would be covered by a full client history. Permission from the stroke patient’s consultant to carry out the massage would be sought.

There are many varying impacts and degrees of impact to a stroke and every stroke has a different effect on every single patient, and massage therapy can be adapted to suit the needs of the individual.

Whilst massage therapy cannot provide a cure for strokes, as part of a multi-disciplinary approach working alongside a range of other therapists, massage therapy can offer the benefits outlined above that can make a significant contribution to the rehabilitation process for stroke patients.

Massage can be beneficial to stroke patients, but some recommendations I have regarding massage are as follow:
1) Make sure the neurologist and other M.D.s involved with the stroke patient’s care give an okay for the patient to receive massage
2) Make sure the massage therapist has medical massage training or is experienced in working with individuals who have experienced a stroke
3) Make sure an accurate history regarding medical conditions is given to the massage therapist including medications

The massage itself does not increase a person’s risk for stroke, but there are precautions that need to be addressed with certain individuals. If blood clots exist, there is a small chance they could be dislodged through massage. Individuals on blood thinner bruise more easily so deep tissue massage may be avoided. Care should be taken around the neck area in the region of the carotid artery, but this shouldn’t be an issue with an experienced massage therapist.

What are the long-term benefits of massage for stroke patients? 
Massage therapy can also help to boost circulation, which is often lacking when a body part cannot be moved. Massage encourages fresh oxygen and blood to that area of the body, removing toxins, and in time increasing mobility.
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