VIDEO: Management of Paralysis after a Stroke: Do Not Force Arm Over Head with Paralysis

Clinical Expertise

May 31, 2021

Medical Reviewer: Amy Jo Rohe, MSOT, OTR/L, CBIS
Last Updated: May 27, 2021

Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Amy Jo Rohe and I’m an occupational therapist at Brooks rehabilitation. And I specialize in neurologic rehab.

Paralysis in one side of the body, also known as hemiparesis, is a common effect of a stroke or brain injury.

In this series, I’m going to discuss important strategies for managing an arm that has been affected by a stroke or brain injury.

One of the most important things not to do is to force your arm with paralysis up past horizontal.

The shoulder is a complex joint with many moving parts. There are certain muscles that need to activate correctly in order to allow you to raise your arm up without forcing any of the muscle tendons into any of the bony structures in the arm or shoulder.

Overhead pullies are appropriate for other rehabilitation purposes but not for a shoulder with paralysis. Do not use pullies.

Allow someone else to stretch your arm up over your head or try to use your other hand to stretch it up. It is okay to raise your arm up to horizontal as this will be necessary for many dressing and bathing tasks, but do not push it any farther.

If you repeatedly force your arm over your head it can cause impingement of your muscle tendons which can lead to tears and shoulder pain.

If you have experienced a neurological event and still have the muscle power to raise your arm up past horizontal without the use of any external forces then it is generally okay to raise your arm up.

Be sure to talk to your physical or occupational therapist to learn ways to correctly perform range of motion to your arm.

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Medical Reviewer

Amy Jo Rohe, MSOT, OTR/L, CBIS

Occupational Therapist