Stroke recovery should start immediately following the stroke for best results. It can take weeks to years to recover, but with patience and persistence, it may be possible to regain many skills.

A stroke occurs when blood clots or broken blood vessels cut off the blood supply to your brain. Every year, more than 795,000 Americans have a stroke. Nearly 1 in 4 strokes occur in someone with a previous stroke.

Strokes can cause significant impairment in language, cognition, and motor and sensory skills. This is why it’s considered a leading cause of serious long-term disability.

Recovering from a stroke can be a lengthy process that requires patience, hard work, and commitment. It may take years to recover, and some people may never fully recover lost skills. Beginning the recovery process as early as possible can increase your chances of regaining affected brain and body functions.

The stroke recovery timeline can often begin after doctors have stabilized your condition during your initial hospital stay. This includes restoring blood flow to your brain and reducing pressure in the surrounding area. It also includes reducing any risk factors for a stroke.

Read on to learn more about the options for stroke recovery.

The type of facility that you recover in depends on the kinds of problems you’re having and what your health insurance plan covers. A doctor and clinical social worker can help you decide which setting best suits your needs.

Rehabilitation units

Some hospitals and clinics have rehabilitation units. Other units are in separate facilities outside of a hospital or clinic. If treated at an inpatient unit, you may stay at the facility for several weeks.

If you receive outpatient care, you will come in for a certain period of time each day to work on rehabilitation.

These facilities can help monitor vital signs and provide different therapies to address lost functions following a stroke.

According to a 2017 study, the optimal frequency and length of rehabilitative therapies during this period is still an evolving science. Most researchers note a need for early, intense rehabilitative therapies as soon as possible.

Skilled nursing homes

Some nursing homes offer specialized stroke rehabilitation programs. Others offer physical, occupational, and other types of therapy that can help you recover.

These therapy programs usually aren’t as intense as those offered at hospital rehabilitation units.

Your home

You may be able to have specialists come to your home to help you recover. Although this may be more comfortable and convenient than undergoing rehabilitation outside your home, this option has limits.

You likely won’t be able to do exercises that require specialized equipment, and your insurance company may not cover this type of care.

Several biological processes take over in the hours and days following a stroke. Your brain begins to do two processes naturally: Repair neurons and other damaged brain cells and clean up and remove dead brain cells.

Following this, the brain needs to repair and restructure the damaged area. This is process is known as neuroplasticity. In other words, it’s the brain’s ability to change, learn, and to re-learn skills.

During this process, the brain may change the connections between brain cells. This can include restructuring cells to do new tasks, increasing or decreasing signals between cells, or improving the strength of the connection.

It may also create new neurons in a process known as neurogenesis. However, additional research is still needed to fully understand how this process helps brain recovery.

The goal of rehabilitation is to improve or restore your speech, cognitive, motor, or sensory skills so that you can be as independent as possible.

Speech skills

A stroke can cause a language impairment called aphasia. If you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, you may have trouble speaking. It’s also common to have a hard time finding the right words or difficulty speaking in full sentences.

You might also have problems with your speech if the muscles that control speech are damaged. Speech and language therapists can help you learn how to speak coherently and clearly. If the damage is too severe, they can also teach you other communication methods.

A speech therapist may be able to help you recover:

  • functional communication
  • reading comprehension
  • specific language
  • writing

Cognitive skills

A stroke can impair your thinking and reasoning abilities, lead to poor judgment, and cause memory problems. It can also cause behavioral changes. You may have once been outgoing but are now withdrawn, or vice versa.

You may also have fewer inhibitions post-stroke and, as a result, do things you wouldn’t normally do that may place you in harm. This is because you no longer understand the potential consequences of your actions.

This leads to concerns about safety, so it’s important to work toward recovering these cognitive skills.

Often, cognitive issues are the worst during the first few months and can and often do get better. Experts note you’ll experience the fastest recovery over the first 3 months while the brain is actively trying to repair itself.

Following the first few months, cognitive recovery will be slower, but it is still possible.

Motor skills

A stroke can weaken the muscles on one side of your body and impair joint movement. This, in turn, affects your coordination and makes it difficult for you to walk and perform other physical activities. You may also experience painful muscle spasms.

Physical therapists can help you learn how to balance and strengthen your muscles. They can also help you control muscle spasms by teaching you stretching exercises. You may need to use a walking aid as you relearn motor skills and improve balance.

Occupational therapists can also help you make sure that your home is a safe environment while you’re recovering physically and cognitively.

Sensory skills

Having a stroke can affect a part of your body’s ability to feel sensory inputs, such as heat, cold, or pressure. Therapists can work with you to help your body adjust to the changes.

Impaired speech, cognition, or motor skills may cause additional complications. Some complications may be treated. These include:

Bladder and bowel control

Strokes can cause bladder and bowel problems. You may not recognize that you have to go to the bathroom. Or you may not be able to get to the bathroom fast enough. You might have diarrhea, constipation, or a loss of bowel control. Frequent urination, trouble urinating, and a loss of bladder control (incontinence) can also occur.

A bladder or bowel specialist can help treat these problems, as can occupational therapists and behavior therapists. You may need to have a commode chair near you throughout the day.

Sometimes medications can be helpful. In severe cases, your doctor will insert a urinary catheter to remove urine from your body.


A stroke can lead to difficulties swallowing. You may forget to swallow while eating or have nerve damage that makes swallowing difficult. This can cause you to choke, cough up food, or have hiccups.

Speech therapists can help you learn to swallow and eat normally again. Dietitians can also help you find nutritious foods that are easier to eat.


As many as 30% to 50% of people develop depression after a stroke.

A psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional can help you manage depression or other mental health issues that may occur. Treatment can consist of therapy, antidepressant medications, or a combination of the two.

Recovery time after a stroke is different for everyone—it can take weeks, months, or even years. Some people recover fully, but others have long-term or lifelong disabilities. According to the American Stroke Association, 35-40% of stroke survivors have limitations in basic activities of daily living 6 months after their stroke; another 40% experience moderate to severe impairments, and 10% require care in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.

Successful stroke recovery depends on a number of factors, including:

  • how much damage the stroke caused
  • how soon recovery is started
  • buy into the recovery process and treatments
  • your age when it happened
  • whether you have other medical problems that can affect recovery

The medical experts who help you rehabilitate can also affect how well you recover. The more skilled they are, the better your recovery may be. You also may need to work with several therapists for complete treatment, such as:

  • dietician
  • speech therapist
  • occupational therapist
  • physical therapist
  • social worker
  • recreational therapist
  • neuropsychologist
  • case worker
  • rehabilitation nurse
  • physiatrist
  • rehabilitation nurse
  • neurologist

Family members and friends can also help improve your outlook by providing encouragement and support.

You can increase your chances of successfully recovering by practicing your rehabilitation exercises on a regular basis.

Medicare will cover most inpatient rehabilitation services under Part A, but this will be subject to your deductible and any copays. It may also provide coverage for a nurse to come care for you in your home, depending if you fulfill the specific requirements. In addition, it will likely pay for any equipment you may need, such as a walker.

Medicare may also pay for outpatient rehabilitation services such as physical therapy under part B, but you need to pay an additional monthly premium to have this coverage.

This is also something you may be able to get covered with Medicaid. Medicaid is federally required to pay for both inpatient and outpatient hospital services. But whether or not Medicaid will cover other rehabilitation needs can depend on your state of residence.

Most private insurance plans will likely view a stroke as a medical condition and cover your rehabilitation. Certain aspects of your recovery, such as behavioral therapy, may be covered under the plan’s mental health benefits. If your recovery includes any experimental treatments, they may not be covered.

That said, every insurance plan is different, so you may want to get more specific information regarding what is covered and what isn’t. The Brain Injury Association of America offers a checklist of things to do if your health insurance denies covering treatment and you want to appeal.

What are some brain exercises for stroke recovery?

Several different activities and games can help with stroke recovery. Some examples include:

  • board games
  • arts and crafts
  • memory games
  • strategy games
  • card matching
  • sequence finding

What foods can help stroke recovery?

Eating a varied diet that provides enough nutrients may be a challenge following a stroke if eating and swallowing are an issue. The American Stroke Association released a cookbook for stroke survivors to access here.

They recommend a diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins, limiting trans and saturated fats and other processed foods.

What are good signs after a stroke?

A quick recovery or regaining of skills immediately following a stroke is generally a good sign. For example, the ability to cross your legs in the early recovery process is a potential sign that you will have a good recovery.

Mild stroke recovery stages typically go faster because there is less damage to the brain, allowing you to regain functions faster.

How long do you stay in the hospital after a stroke?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected data from 1989 to 2009 on several stroke stats, including the average length of hospital stays. They noted that the average hospital stay decreased in 2009 to 5.3 days from 10.2 days on average in 1989.

How long you will need in the hospital can vary based on the severity of the stroke, recovery needs, insurance coverage, and other possible factors.

How can I recover from a stroke quickly?

Your best chances for recovery include starting therapies and treatments as quickly as possible following the stroke. Doctors at the hospital can help you determine the specialists who can best help your recovery and provide therapies as quickly as possible.