A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of [the] brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and food. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.
Stroke symptoms vary depending on which side of the brain and where the stroke occurs.
Common outcomes of having a stroke* include:
Difficulty with walking and balance
Loss or interruption of speech functions
Weakness or inability to move on one side of the body
Problems with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory
Problems with controlling or expressing emotions
Numbness or strange sensations
Pain in the hands and feet that worsens with movement and temperature changes
*Source: NIH (National Institutes of Health)
A stroke can be devastating and life changing. Many of the immediate symptoms resulting from a stroke are dramatic and obvious to the survivor and those close to them. It is well understood that the sooner we can begin providing therapy and rehabilitation to the stroke survivor, the better.
The question is what to do?
Traditional approaches primarily try to get stroke survivors to begin doing and performing skills which they have lost due to the stroke. This may seem the obvious and logical thing to do. For example, if due to the brain damage resulting from the stroke the person is unable to move and control his left hand and arm, traditional therapeutic approaches often ask the patient to try and use his hand and arm the way he did before the stroke. In other words, even though the trauma happened in the brain, the therapy focuses on the muscles, bones, and lost skills, asking stroke survivors to do that which they are unable to do. With the Anat Baniel Method℠, we have a very different approach.
This NeuroMovement Approach Focuses on Communicating with the Brain
Our approach to helping the stroke survivor recover function is dramatically different. We do not ask the stroke survivor to do what they cannot do.
When we encourage the stroke survivor to do a function that they have lost and cannot perform, their brain learns very quickly the patterns of their failure in performing that function. The repetition of these patterns of failure create a ceiling to how far they will be able to progress in the future.
My friend, Jill Bolte Taylor, author of the book My Stroke of Insight and the TED Talk: My Stroke of Insight, has told me numerous times that the Nine Essentials of NeuroMovement describe the process that she and her mother G.G. created for her to heal from her devastating stroke. Jill also told me that these Nine Essentials describe the theoretical and provide highly effective practices to help stroke survivors recover.
Read Anat Baniel’s and Dr. Bolte Taylor’s Conversation about her stroke on the HuffPost Healthy Living.
We use the Nine Essentials in everything we do. Each of the Essentials provides the brain with new information it needs to create new connections leading to positive change. All of the Essentials are fully supported by current brain research.
It is important to note that without these new connections, the brain does not have the resources to relearn what was lost and instead it tends to quickly get stuck with little improvement after just a few weeks of rehabilitation.
Anat Baniel has developed powerful, practical strategies for improving your abilities and building a better, stronger brain supported by the neuroscience of brain plasticity.
—Dr. Michael Merzenich, Father of Neuroplasticity
Transformational Recovery of Function After Stroke with Neuroplasticity Principles
The Anat Baniel Method is based in the understanding of neuroplasticity principles, (the ability of the brain to create new connections and patterns and change itself for the better) and how we all learn to move and acquire new skills:
1. We do not ask our clients to do what they cannot do. The reason is that, for example, when we ask stroke survivors to move their hand when many of the neural connections and patterns of moving that hand have been lost, they are certain to either do it very poorly, or be unable to do it all together. What is important to realize is that their brains are recording their experiences all the time. In other words their brains are actually learning their patterns of failure—not what we are asking them to do and learn. These patterns are formed extremely fast, as shown by brain research, and get deeply grooved in.
So while the initial loss of function is due to the stroke, and some progress is made through the different therapies, with so many stroke survivors the eventual limitation in their recovery is due to the intervention. That is why so many stroke survivors are released from rehabilitation after 5-6 weeks since no significant improvement is observed anymore.
2. With ABM we look to take advantage of the brain’s remarkable capacities to reorganize and restructure itself. We are very mindful and careful to create optimal conditions for the brain to wake up and be able to problem solve, and avoid learning the limitations that are a result of the stroke. We do NOT ask the stroke survivor to do what he or she cannot do! We understand that the loss of function is due to loss of differentiation (loss of connections) in the brain. (See our blog post on differentiation with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor.)
3. We find ways to minimize the demand and stresses placed on the brain so that it can explore and learn, just like with a newborn child.
a. For example, we will initially work with the stroke survivor lying down, thus reducing the demand on the brain to be upright and to balance the body in space.
b. The sessions/lessons are limited to 30-45 minutes each.
c. We limit the number of sessions to a maximum of 3 per day.
d. We encourage our clients to rest between sessions, and sleep when they feel the need to. (Read about Jill Bolte Taylor’s recovery process after her stroke).
e. We ask our clients to avoid trying to perform movements and exercises that are difficult and beyond their ability to do at present.
f. We make sure they do not do many repetitions of any function while they are still on a learning curve—physical or cognitive—to avoid adopting limiting and disorganized patterns.
g. We often work first with the unaffected side for our clients’ brains to have the experience of what it is that they are trying to learn.
h. We utilize many other unconventional techniques that for many people, initially, are counterintuitive, but are in full accordance with the most recent knowledge of how the brain changes and learns.
4. We use the Nine Essentials in everything we do! Each of the Essentials provides the brain with a condition it needs in order to receive new information and create new connections leading to positive change. All of the Essentials are fully supported by current brain research.
We recommend that stroke survivors begin ABM lessons as soon as possible after the stroke. ABM Practitioners have even gone to the hospital to work with people shortly after their stroke. Practitioners provide at-home NeuroMovement exercises when the client is ready, which accelerate recovery and provide further independence.
Depending on the severity and type of stroke, we have seen remarkable outcomes that have exceeded expectations and gone way beyond what is believed to be possible at this time. Below are two testimonials to these kinds of outcome when using ABM to recover from a stroke.
Miraculous Recovery from a Stroke by an 85-Year-Old Woman Using ABM
My doctors were amazed at how well I responded to their initial examinations, the pressure and strength I had in my hands and legs. They are also amazed at my quick recovery less than 4 months later.
Read Grace’s full testimonial here.
Great Improvement with ABM in Limitations Caused by Stroke
I was literally amazed at the level of improvement I was experiencing after only a few short (and relaxing) sessions. For me, the ABM is the closest thing to ‘brain surgery without a knife.’
Read Robert’s full testimonial here.