CVA stands for cerebrovascular accident. A CVA is also known as a stroke, a condition that occurs when blood flow is cut off to an area of the brain. Damage to the left side of the brain affects the right side of the body and vice versa. CVAs are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability. After a stroke, working with trained therapists can help an individual regain strength and resume his or her activities of daily living. Occupational therapy focuses on helping people regain upper body strength and relearn fine motor skills. There are several occupational therapy activities that may help after a stroke.
One activity is tossing a ball back and forth. Although this may sound like a child's game, the act of throwing the ball can make arm muscles stronger and the act of catching it can improve hand-eye coordination. Most therapists start off using a large, lightweight ball like a beach ball. They eventually progress to a smaller, heavier ball like a baseball or a softball.
Another occupational therapy activity that is helpful for stroke victims is sorting cards. The therapist has the patient sort a deck of cards into suits using the hand that was most affected by the stroke. The cards may be placed directly in front of the person or to one side or the other. Shuffling a deck of cards also helps with fine motor coordination. Some therapists prefer to start off using an oversize deck of cards.
Folding laundry is another activity that can help with recovery from a stroke. Folding larger items like comforters or blankets strengthens muscles in the arms, wrists, and hands. Folding smaller items like handkerchiefs or washcloths helps improve coordination. A therapist may ask the patient to stand up while doing the folding. This allows him or her to practice balance while engaging in daily tasks. Another variation on this activity is attaching weighted cuffs to the wrists.
One more activity an occupational therapist might suggest to someone who is recovering from a stroke is using an arm bicycle. Pedaling vigorously for several minutes at a time does wonders for rebuilding strength and muscle mass. It also helps people who have survived a stroke relearn the use of opposing arm motions, natural movements that people make when walking. A stroke can be debilitating, but there are several occupational therapy activities that are available to help people regain their normal level of functioning.