Leg functioning

A stroke can cause problems with moving your legs, and with walking and balance. Common difficulties include:

  • Weakness or paralysis – weakness all the way down one side of your body is called hemiparesis. Paralysis on one side of the body is called hemiplegia.
  • Changes in sensation – this can include increased feeling, which can make even light touch painful (hypersensitivity). You may also experience numbness or pins and needles.
  • Coordination problems or balance problems – these problems may be due to physical limitations, or due to difficulties in planning movement (apraxia or dyspraxia). 
  • Swelling – if your leg doesn’t move as well as it used to, fluid may build up in your foot or lower leg. This is called edema or oedema.
  • Changes in muscle tone – high tone makes your muscles stiff or tight, and is called hypertonia or spasticity. Low tone makes your muscles floppy or loose, and is called hypotonia.
  • Contracture – shortening of the muscle results in the joint becoming fixed in one position.

Recovery after stroke can be slow and it can be hard to predict how much recovery will happen in your leg. Generally, recovery is most rapid in the first six months, but recovery can continue years after a stroke. This is especially true if you keep active and use your affected leg the best you can.

A physiotherapist can give you an exercise program to improve your leg functioning and balance. This may include strengthening, stretching, coordination or balance exercises. A physiotherapist can also give you advice about whether you should use a walking aid, leg splint or brace, to help you walk more easily and safely. They can also advise you on how to reduce your risk of falls.  

A stroke can cause problems with:
  • moving your legs
  • walking 
  • balance
leg

Recovering from stroke

Recovering from a stroke can be slow.

It is hard to know how much your leg will recover.

You will make the most progress in the first six months.

You can continue to recover for years after a stroke.

Keep active and use your affected leg as much as you can.

A physiotherapist can give you exercises to help you.

They can talk to you about using a walking aid, leg splint or brace.

Common problems

Weakness

You may have weakness all the way down one side of your body.

This is called hemiparesis.

If you can’t move at all on one side of the body, this is called hemiplegia.

Changes in feeling

You may have more feeling in your leg.

Even gentle touch can be painful.

You may also feel numbness or pins and needles.

Coordination problems or balance problems

You may have problems moving your legs or balancing.

This can be due to physical problems like weakness.

Your leg also may not move the way you want it to.

This is called apraxia or dyspraxia.

Swelling

If your leg doesn’t move much, fluid can build up in your foot or lower leg.

This is called edema or oedema.

Changes to muscles

You may have stiff or tight muscles.

This is called hypertonia or spasticity.

You may also have floppy or loose muscles.

This is called hypotonia.

Joints

If the muscles get stiff, your knee or ankle can become fixed in one position.

This is called contracture.

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