There are many complications that may develop after having a stroke, but regaining the ability to walk may be possible. With the proper rehabilitation, some people walk independently again following a stroke.

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Having a stroke can make it difficult to walk. With effective treatment, up to 85% of all people recovering from a stroke can likely walk independently within 6 months. However, around 60% of individuals who need assistance to walk immediately following a stroke are able to regain the ability to walk independently.

This will largely depend on the type of stroke they had, their age, other medical conditions, and other contributing factors.

Your ability to walk after a stroke and the length of your recovery time depend on a variety of factors, including your age, what type of stroke you had, how severe the stroke was, and how much it affected your mobility.

Younger people who were physically strong before their stroke may walk again within a few weeks or months. Meanwhile, for those who have other medical conditions or more severe strokes, it may take a few years to regain the full ability to walk, and some people may not be able to walk independently again.

Some researchers estimate that anywhere from 65% to 85% of all stroke survivors are able to walk independently after 6 months of rehabilitation.

Everybody, and every stroke, is different. It is important to recognize that your recovery timeline will be unique to you.

There are many factors that can affect how soon you will be back to walking independently. Some include:

  • Location of stroke: Where in your brain the stroke occurred and how severely the stroke affected certain motor-sensory areas of your brain may affect how quickly you walk again or if you are able to walk again. For example, a 2021 study found that those who had a hemorrhagic stroke, a stroke that is caused by a bleed in the brain, had a slower recovery time than those who had an ischemic stroke, a stroke caused by a blockage of blood to the brain.
  • Type of stroke: The type of stroke you have may affect how quickly you walk again or if you are able to walk again.
  • Stroke severity: The extent of the injury to your brain is important — the more severe the injury, the longer your recovery may take.
  • Your age: Younger people usually recover faster.
  • Alertness level: Some strokes hinder your ability to stay alert and follow instructions that are needed to engage in rehabilitation activities.
  • Rehabilitation program: Regular physical therapy is crucial to helping you regain the ability to walk after a stroke. The intensity of your rehabilitation program may help determine how quickly you recover.
  • Other medical conditions: How severe any other medical conditions you may have are and your physical condition, such as your leg strength and balance, can affect your recovery timeline.
  • Your home environment: Stair rails and grab bars can increase safety and independence at home.
  • Your support system: Having a supportive network may help your recovery.
  • Timing: The sooner rehabilitation begins, the greater the chances for a full recovery.

In addition to physical therapy sessions, there are many exercises that you can do as part of your rehabilitation after a stroke. It’s important to work closely with a medical doctor and other healthcare professionals such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and others during your recovery. They can teach you how to safely perform exercises and instruct you on how frequently they should be done.

Some of these exercises may include:

  • sit to stand
  • stepping in different directions
  • walking up stairs
  • reaching a target
  • walk and pivot
  • sideway walking

Each of these exercises should first be performed with assistance from a physical therapist until you can do them independently. The physical therapist will determine when it’s safe for you to perform the exercises at home and assess additional factors, including your strength, balance, and pain.

It’s important to always prioritize safety. Rehabilitation can be a stressful and long process that some may find frustrating. Recognizing your limits and avoiding pushing yourself too hard is important to prevent injury. It will also help support you in continuing your regular training schedule.

Most people who have had a stroke regain the ability to walk within 6 months. However, if you have a severe stroke, there is a chance that you may find rehabilitation and recovery particularly difficult. You may experience long-term difficulty walking. It’s also possible that a stroke can lead to a permanent inability to walk.

Recovery success also depends on many other factors. For example, if you experience severe memory or cognition impairment, you may have trouble keeping up with the physical therapy exercises or if you have another underlying condition that affects your ability to recover.

If after 6 months, you are still unable to walk without assistance, continue working with your rehab specialist or physical therapist to regain strength. Continued rehabilitation will help you continue improving your functional status and maximize your quality of life.

For some, recovery after a stroke can be frustrating, but working with physical therapists and doctors and leaning into your support system can help make recovery smoother.

How likely am I to walk again following a stroke?

Although it varies from person to person, some studies have found that, with rehabilitation therapy, anywhere from 65% to 85% of stroke patients are likely to walk again independently within 6 months. Not everyone who has a stroke will walk independently again. Many factors influence whether you will walk again following a stroke.

How can I prevent having another stroke?

If you have had a stroke, you are at high risk of having another one. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 4 stroke survivors have another stroke within 5 years.

It is important to work on addressing underlying risk factors or causes of stroke, including:

What do I do if I see someone having a stroke?

There is an acronym to help you determine if you or someone you know is having a stroke: F.A.S.T. Here’s what you do:

F — Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A – Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S — Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?

T — Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.

Remembering this acronym can help you stay calm and may help save a life.

A stroke is a disruption in blood flow to areas of the brain, causing tissue death and neurologic issues. Having a stroke can make it difficult to walk, but with proper stroke treatment, most people are typically able to regain movement patterns within 6 months.

It’s important to work closely with your doctor and perform regular physical therapy to help train your body and brain to help enhance your ability to move and your movement patterns.