Summary: Stroke is among the leading causes of mortality and disability globally. Stroke survivors suffer from impaired motor function, issues related to mental health, and much more. Now one of the first studies of its kind shows that stroke survivors also have a much higher prevalence of chronic pain and altered body perception. For example, they are likely to complain about one hand being bigger than the other or knee swelling that is not there.
Stroke and heart attack are among the leading causes of death and disability in the US and globally. Considering that conditions like obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disorders are on the rise in the US, stroke incidence is only bound to rise.
Stroke is not just a life-threatening incidence. Even those who survive continue to live with significant disabilities. Many individuals have compromised motor function or physical disabilities. In addition, it takes quite a long time to recover from physical disabilities caused by stroke.
But, of course, it is worth understanding that limited physical abilities or compromised motor function are not the only issues, though it is something that is the source of greatest distress and disability. However, stroke survivors continue to experience other issues like altered mental abilities, sensory changes, and much more.
Now one of the first studies of its kind shows that stroke survivors frequently have altered body perception. For example, some stroke survivors may feel as if one hand is bigger than another, or they might have other similar issues causing much distress. These new findings were published in the journal Brain Sciences.
The study was done by researchers at the University of South Australia. They surveyed 523 stroke survivors and had many interesting findings. They found that chronic pain was almost three times more common in stroke survivors than in the general population. Additionally, they found that most of those living with chronic pain post-stroke had altered body perception.
These findings show that during rehabilitation, doctors must also focus on managing these changes in perception. Managing these changes may accelerate post-stroke recovery. Moreover, it is worth understanding that altered body perception increases the risk of injuries. After all, the human hand plays a vital role in manipulating an object and carrying out various tasks, and any changes in perception may increase the risk of various accidents.
There were two striking findings from the study. First, it found that three out of five stroke patients continue to experience chronic pain. This is almost three times higher than the general population.
Secondly, those living with chronic pain have altered perceptions. They perceive their body quite differently. This makes carrying out daily activities quite challenging for them. It also means that in many cases, the problem of carrying out everyday tasks may be due to altered body perception rather than changes in motor function.
Of course, stroke patients demonstrate many other health issues like impaired cognition, fatigue, high-stress level, anxiety, depression, and much more.
Distorted perception has earlier been reported in many conditions, like in those who have undergone amputation. However, this is the first study that reports altered body perception in stroke survivors. Moreover, the study shows that the condition is not rare in patients.
This altered body perception is not limited to hands. Stroke survivors may have altered perceptions of other body parts, too. For example, some may consistently complain about a swollen knee, though physical examination may not show any changes.
Researchers say this only shows how complicated the human body is, and a simplified approach to stroke survivors must be avoided. Instead, developing a better understanding of various patient perception changes would help provide them with better care.