APEX Brain Centers

Overcoming Stroke: A Guide to Treatment and Recovery Strategies

At APEX Brain Centers, we recognize the urgency and complexity surrounding treating strokes. When a stroke occurs, every minute counts; swift action can significantly affect the outcome. The acronym “FAST”—which stands for “Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, and Time to call emergency services”—is a quick way to remember the sudden symptoms of a stroke and the importance of immediate care. While other, sometimes more subtle, symptoms can present, these are the more common ones. In these critical moments, receiving emergency care is paramount as specific treatments must be administered quickly to be effective, and to minimize the fallout from these serious brain injuries.

Our experience over the past two decades has shown that collaborative health services become significantly more impactful when combined with the treatments we specialize in. At our practice, we focus on addressing the intricate needs of individuals who have experienced a brain injury, cognitive impairment, as well as learning and behavioral disorders, such as OCD, anxiety, ADHD, and the challenges associated with addiction. Our emphasis resides in our leading-edge functional neurology approach, and complementing that with a range of progressive supportive therapies.

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Understanding Stroke Types and Causes

Strokes disrupt the intricate workings of the brain, leading to potentially serious health issues and long-term disability. They occur in different ways, each with distinct causes and effects on the brain.

Ischemic Strokes and Blood Clots

Ischemic strokes are the most common type, resulting from blood clots that obstruct blood flow to the brain. These clots can stem from conditions like uncontrolled blood sugar, which leads to small blood vessel damage and plaque buildup in arteries (atherosclerosis); or other issues like high blood pressure that compromise vascular health. When blood flow to brain cells is interrupted, it can result in the damage or death of these cells due to oxygen deprivation.

Hemorrhagic Stroke and Bleeding

Contrary to ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes are caused by bleeding in or around the brain. This bleeding can occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, often exacerbated by high blood pressure. Traumatic brain injuries can cause this as well. The pressure of the leaked blood on brain tissue can lead to cell damage, while the reduction in blood flow downstream leads to oxygen deprivation in other parts of the brain.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A Transient Ischemic Attack, often called a mini-stroke, is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. While the symptoms may mirror those of a full stroke, they can often be milder and typically resolve within 24 hours. Nevertheless, a TIA is a serious warning sign of potential future strokes and should prompt immediate medical attention.

Immediate Stroke Response and Emergency Treatment

When a stroke occurs, time is critical. Quick action during the initial hours of a stroke can significantly impact the outcome. Understanding immediate response and emergency treatment is vital.

Recognizing Stroke with ‘FAST’

F.A.S.T. is an acronym that helps to quickly recognize the signs of a stroke: Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, and Time to call emergency services. Immediate recognition of these symptoms is crucial as the success of many treatments depends on how quickly they are administered. None of these symptoms should be taken lightly, even if you are a “generally healthy” person!

Emergency Medical Services and Hospital Care

Once emergency care is activated, rapid transport to the hospital is essential. Emergency Medical Services are trained to handle strokes, ensuring medical intervention begins promptly. Hospitals are prepared to carry out advanced imaging, like CT scans, to assess whether a stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic, which influences the treatment approach.

tPA and Thrombolytic Therapies

For an ischemic stroke caused by a clot obstructing blood flow to the brain, tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) is an effective thrombolytic therapy that can dissolve the clot and restore blood flow. To be eligible for tPA, a patient must be treated within a specific time window from the onset of symptoms, emphasizing the urgency of fast action.

Long-Term Treatment Strategies

Our practice at APEX Brain Centers recognizes that continuity of care is crucial for individuals recovering from a stroke. To address this, we devise long-term strategies emphasizing comprehensive care, including an array of therapies to promote brain health and mitigate risk factors once acute emergencies are attended to. This should happen within days to weeks after a stroke has occurred for optimal outcomes.

Medical Management and Secondary Prevention

The core of long-term treatment lies in secondary prevention, which involves aggressively managing risk factors that could precipitate another stroke. This typically includes close monitoring and control of blood pressure, management of altered blood lipids, and regulation of diabetes. Medications often play a role in this aspect, with blood thinners being crucial to reducing the risk of subsequent clot formation. Our approach respects these medical strategies with functional neurology to enhance outcomes in the long-term.

Surgical Interventions

For certain individuals, surgical options such as carotid endarterectomy—a procedure to clear blocked carotid arteries—may be recommended to prevent future strokes. Similarly, angioplasty and stenting can be employed to widen narrowed arteries and maintain vessel patency. These interventions are often accompanied by supplementary therapies we provide such as low-level laser therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy to support the brain’s healing process.

Ongoing Medications and Monitoring

Effective long-term management often necessitates the ongoing use of medications to reduce stroke risk. Regular monitoring and dosing adjustments ensure optimal protection against recurrent strokes. Our team’s expertise extends to providing leading-edge therapies like neurofeedback, balance and vestibular therapies, eye movement rehabilitation, and the above-mentioned modalities, which can significantly enhance the efficacy of conventional medical treatments as part of an integrative approach to post-stroke care.

Rehabilitation after Stroke

At APEX Brain Centers, we recognize the importance of rehabilitation for stroke recovery, focusing on restorative therapies that promote independence and functional improvement. Our multifaceted approach targets a range of abilities, from physical strength to cognitive function; as well as metabolic support.

Physical Therapy and Regaining Strength

Functional Neurology: We prioritize functional neurology to enhance coordination, balance, and motor skills. Our team employs balance and vestibular therapies to restore equilibrium, which is critical for safe post-stroke movement.

Strength Training: Utilizing technological advances such as low-level laser therapy, we aim to improve muscle function and assist in regaining strength. Through targeted exercises, coupled with transcranial laser applications, patients can work on rebuilding their physical capabilities.

Metabolic Therapy and Daily Activities

Metabolic and Nutritional Therapies: Our nutritional approach supports daily activity rehabilitation by emphasizing healthy fats and decreased intake of refined and processed foods for brain recovery. 

Motor Skill Enhancement: We integrate training of motor timing, complex movements, and eye movement rehabilitation with frequency-based modalities to fine-tune fine motor skills for performing daily activities independently.

Speech and Swallowing Therapy

At APEX, we undertake a holistic approach to aid with speech and swallowing, engaging in neurofeedback and brainstem neuromodulation to enhance communication abilities and swallowing functions, key concerns for many stroke survivors.

Psychological Support and Coping

Our approach to mental health acknowledges the interdependence of cognitive, physical, and neurological health (i.e. the brain-body connection).

Our practice at APEX Brain Centers focuses on providing comprehensive care to address the needs of individuals with all types of brain injuries, including stroke. Our approach emphasizes functional neurology, low-level laser therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and neurofeedback. We also utilize balance and vestibular therapies, eye movement rehabilitation, frequency-based modalities, metabolic and nutritional therapies, and home care programs to support recovery and promote optimum mental health.

Innovative and Advanced Treatment Options

Our practice at APEX Brain Centers focuses on pioneering therapies that harness the body’s innate ability to heal and adapt, guided by the latest research and our expertise.

Neuroplasticity and Brain Recovery

Neuroplasticity is the foundation of our approach to brain recovery. It refers to the brain’s remarkable ability to reorganize by forming new neural connections. We employ strategies, such as those mentioned above, that aid in rewiring the brain and improving physical and cognitive functions. Our integrative methods boost the brain’s natural plasticity and facilitate recovery for individuals with brain injuries.

Robotic and Virtual Reality Therapies

Robotic technology and virtual reality have become integral parts of modern rehabilitative medicine. In our practice, we appreciate these technologies to create immersive rehabilitation experiences that improve motor skills and foster brain recovery. Robotic therapy provides precise, repeatable movements to assist patients in regaining control and strength, while virtual reality platforms offer engaging, adaptive environments for the safe practice of real-world activities.

Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Techniques

We utilize noninvasive brain stimulation methods, including low-level laser therapy, transcranial electrical stimulation, and pulsed electromagnetic frequency applications to enhance the brain’s healing. These techniques stimulate neuroplasticity without surgical intervention, promoting recovery from cognitive impairments and various learning and behavioral disorders. These modalities offer a gentle yet effective option for enhancing brain function alongside our foundational neurological therapies.

Biological and Alternative Medicine Approaches

Metabolic and nutritional therapies tailored to support the brain’s healing process are at the core of our alternative medicine approaches. These therapies are driven by our full understanding of a patient’s history and comprehensive laboratory analysis. We emphasize the role of healthy fats in promoting brain health and integrate various biological therapies into our treatment protocols. Our experience over the past two decades shows that other health services become significantly more impactful when paired with these comprehensive strategies.

Living with Stroke: Lifestyle Adjustments and Support

Recovery from a stroke requires significant lifestyle adjustments and the proper support structure to promote healing and independence. Patients often need to adapt their daily lives and find new ways to manage their health and well-being. At APEX Brain Centers, we are committed to guiding our clients through these changes, focusing on innovative neurological therapies and family and community support.

Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle

To improve the quality of life after a stroke, adopting a healthy lifestyle supporting brain health is essential. Incorporating strategic dietary modifications, adequate hydration, proper sleep hygiene, and regular physical activity can help maintain optimal brain function. Our metabolic and nutritional therapies strongly emphasize educating our clients on the importance of a balanced diet rich in nutrients, and lowered in amounts of potentially toxic “foods”, that support neurological health.

Support Systems and Community Resources

We understand the importance of a strong support system in stroke recovery. Our extensive experience shows that mental health services are more effective when paired with our specialized treatment modalities. We encourage clients to engage with social workers well-versed in brain injury and explore community resources that provide emotional and practical assistance. These resources can be essential for adapting to new lifestyles and maintaining social connections.

Financial Planning and Resources

Navigating the financial resources required for ongoing treatment can be a complex process. At APEX Brain Centers, we assist our clients in understanding the available options for financing their treatment plans. This includes discussing out-of-network insurance coverage, crowd-funding, hardship agreements, and introducing them to potential grants and assistance programs dedicated to individuals living with the effects of a stroke.

Dr. Michael S. Trayford is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Neurofeedback Specialist with over 20 years of experience in the practice of advanced functional neurology. He is one of the most highly sought-after brain rehabilitation specialists because of the life-changing outcomes his patients consistently experience. After over a decade in private practice and working alongside other pioneers in the field, Dr. Trayford developed his multimodal intensive brain training and rehabilitation program built around the science of Neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to learn and grow dependent upon the stimulation it receives from its environment. He later founded APEX Brain Centers to combine his ground-breaking rehabilitation approach with a unique patient and caretaker-centered care model. Under Dr. Trayford’s leadership, APEX Brain Centers has successfully treated thousands of patients and earned the reputation of a world-renowned brain training and rehabilitation practice. Since its inception, Dr. Trayford has been a leader of the Brain Training revolution treating patients worldwide. In addition, he is a published journal contributor and international lecturer. His experience with various patients of all ages and neurological conditions has given him a unique perspective on brain health and human performance. He is also well-versed in collaborating with other health care professionals, making him an invaluable asset to any care team. Dr. Trayford was awarded the Functional Neurologist of the Year distinction by the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation, where he is a proud member and conference lecturer. Currently, he serves on the Advisory Council for the Dementia Society of America and the Board of Directors for the International Society for Neuroregulation and Research. He is also a servant leader who has dedicated his adult life to serving multiple communities through Rotary International and other notable causes. When he’s not treating patients, Dr. Trayford usually reads or researches anything related to the brain, human performance, and leadership. He also loves spending time outdoors with his wife Denise, their two daughters, and dogs in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmichaeltrayford/

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