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What is apraxia?

Every time we move, our brain has to plan what it wants our body to do and make sure we do it in the right order. A stroke can affect your ability to do this, making it difficult to move parts of your body in the way you want to. This is called apraxia.

If you have apraxia you’ll find it difficult to move when you’re asked to, even though you understand exactly what you’re being asked to do and know how to do it. This is because apraxia is a problem with planning movements – so even though you can’t wave properly to someone when they ask you to, you may wave without any problem when they go to leave, because you’re doing it without thinking. It often affects the ability to use ‘tools’ such as cutlery, when you need to make intentional movements to complete a task like cutting up food on your plate.

Apraxia is quite common after a stroke and it can take some time to improve. It can also be difficult to notice it. Very often people assume that their problem is physical. However, a doctor or therapist should be able to pick up on apraxia through the assessments they do with you. 

Signs of apraxia

If you have apraxia, you may:

  • Hesitate before doing things or seem to do them very slowly
  • Do things with the wrong amount of force, so you may bang your mug on the table when you go to put it down
  • Move in the wrong way, like waving your hand forwards and backwards to say goodbye, rather than side to side. 

What can I do about apraxia?

Usually, apraxia problems will be picked up by your doctors or therapists whilst you’re in hospital or by your community team when you’re back at home.

If they haven’t been, and you start to notice that you may be having problems, then go back to your GP to get them properly diagnosed and assessed.

If these problems are making day-to-day life difficult for you, then you need to be referred to an occupational therapist. They will work with you to find ways to help you cope with them. They will also be able to suggest aids and equipment that can help you.

Find out more about getting help with memory and thinking problems after stroke