The human brain, miraculous in its intricacy and power, is still largely a mystery to modern science. With more than 10 million nerve cells, it is the home of all that we know and feel, the generator of every physical action and response.

Yet, unlike other cells in the body, brain cells once damaged cannot efficiently repair themselves. And they can be damaged quite easily – by infection, injury, or oxygen starvation. Should any part of the brain go without oxygenated blood for more than a few minutes, the body will suffer a stroke.

The signs of a stroke vary a great deal, depending on which part of the brain has been damaged, but symptoms range from a sudden loss of speech or movement to dizziness, blurred vision, confusion, and unconsciousness. They may last only a few hours resulting in a transient ischemic attack (T.I.A.). If the symptoms don’t disappear, this is a full-scale stroke.

There are various ways that the flow of blood to the brain can be slowed or stopped. Sometimes a clot (thrombosis) forms, blocking the flow of oxygenated blood. Or a blood clot (embolism) which formed somewhere else in the body breaks free and ends up blocking an artery to the brain. In other cases, blood bursts through the wall of a weak artery into the brain (haemorrhage), eventually building into a clot.

The good health of arteries is crucial in avoiding strokes. Smoking and high levels of cholesterol (caused by eating animal fat, lack of exercise and stress) are commonly attributed to the hardening of the arteries.

Luckily, our brain cells have so many connections between them that healthy cells can often take over the function of damaged cells so that we hardly know that anything has gone wrong. Half of stroke survivors return to full health, but much depends on how much damage has been done to the brain, as well as on the aftercare provided.

After a stroke, care and rehabilitation includes speech therapy and physiotherapy to help with recovering language and mobility. Sometimes doctors also prescribe anticoagulants (a range of medicines which includes aspirin) to stop other blood clots from forming. Surgery may be necessary to remove any remaining obstructions from arteries.

Any neurological symptoms such as visual disturbance, loss of balance or power, confusion, etc, must be assessed initially by your physician, who may refer you to a neurologist.

The Hale Clinic sees certain alternative therapies as playing an important part in stroke recovery. Homeopathy and cranial osteopathy can be of great assistance combined with biomedical therapies. Acupuncture as well as twice weekly Marma massage may also show positive results. Clinical aromatherapy can also be of emotional help to the patient. As always, special exercises are important to enhance and maintain the benefits of this treatment. They can be combined with a good diet, reflexology, and the use of essential oils.