Stroke Recovery: Tight Muscles

I haven’t written about my stroke recovery for a while, because my condition has largely stabilised. I do have some news today, and this post is also in the way of an apology because I haven’t posted my usual posts this week.

My right arm, which doesn’t work at all, has been getting tighter lately. Which sounds like nonsense, now I think about it. Let me re-phrase: my right arm doesn’t work voluntarily at all. But it does react to natural tension in my body, and when I cough, sneeze or yawn. The muscles in my arm do work, but the messages from my brain don’t get through.

I went to see an Occupational Therapist on Monday for some advice. The explanation was fascinating (well I thought so anyway). The body has natural reflexes, as you can see in babies. As we gradually learn conscious control over our muscles, these overpower the natural reflexes. When a stroke disables part of the body it allows the natural reflexes to reassert themselves.

Apparently it is natural for the arm to swing across the body and the elbow to bend. That’s why you see some stroke survivors with their arm stuck in that position. Thanks to the therapy I receive, my arm still has a wide range of movement, but it’s trying to get into that position. I sit with my hand in my lap, which is quite natural, but reinforces that movement across the body. I need to keep it to the side, to counteract that movement.

So, that’s what I did on Tuesday. Nothing extreme, just resting my arm on the arm of the chair instead of in my lap. The explanation by the OT was proved right because I woke up on Wednesday in considerable pain. The muscles under my arm and under my shoulder blade had been stretched and were complaining loudly. So I’ve been rather distracted this week, hence the forgotten blog posts.

Those who have followed me for some time will know my determination and persistence since my stroke. This week has been what I call ‘good pain’ – it’s a sign of something working or improving, not a sign of a problem. So now I know what to do, I’m going to keep up the stretching, but take it a bit slower!


About Ann Marie Thomas

Married since 1974, Christian since 1986, 4 children, 4 grand children, disabled with fibromyalgia but was working almost full time until a stroke in May 2010 changed my life completely. Writing poetry and making up stories since I was a child, I only started to write seriously when my children were grown. My main ambition is to write science fiction, but along the way I got distracted by local history and poetry about my stroke. Taking early retirement gave me the chance to concentrate on my writing. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, was published in print and ebook at Easter 2012. The success of Alina led to the publication of Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John in September 2013, and The Magna Carta Story at Easter 2015. I am still writing science fiction - a series of novels called Flight of the Kestrel. For all my author news, see me author blog at
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