A stroke can occur in any part of the brain or spinal cord. A cerebellar stroke occurs when the blood flow to the cerebellum is disrupted.  A cerebellar stroke is an uncommon place for a stroke to occur, however, the results can be devastating. The cerebellum, located in the back of the brain. It is small in size, and huge in function as compared to other parts of the brain. The cerebellum is 10% of the overall brain mass, however, contains 50% of the total number of neurons in the brain.

What is the function of the Cerebellum?

The cerebellum is responsible for coordinating movement and maintaining balance. The cerebellum is similar to a control tower at an airport. It receives information from several areas of the brain and spinal cord to regulate movement.

What does the role of the cerebellum look like in real life?

Think about the last time you stepped onto a boat from solid ground. How in the world did you stay upright when the surface you were walking on started moving?  

Well, if you have healthy cerebellum, you probably didn’t have to think about it.

Let’s stick with the walking example to understand this complex control center in the brain. When stepping from a solid surface onto a boat, several things must occur to prevent a loss of balance, or even worse, a fall.

  1. The cerebellum receives information from the sensory system (information coming to the brain from the body). Information from the feet tells the brain the solid surface has changed to a moving surface. The eyes tell the brain the world is now swaying.
  2. The cerebellum receives this and immediately starts to coordinate the movement centers in the brain to make the appropriate body adjustments. This may include widening our stance for a larger base of support,engaging the abdominal muscles, or engaging the neck muscles to stabilize your vision (extremely important in helping us to maintain balance).

What problems occur after a Cerebellar Stroke?

It should be clear to understand the HUGE role the cerebellum plays in everyday life. Depending on the severity of the stroke, the problems can be devastating. Here is a list of the most common symptoms:

Shaky arm and leg movement

Over correcting when a loss of balance does occur

Feeling the need to hold on to objects when standing and walking

Feeling dizzy or nauseous

Falling backwords

Back pain and neck pain

Dysarthria (difficulty speaking)

What is the treatment?

Medical Treatment

A neurologist is the doctor who can diagnose a cerebellar stroke and provide medical treatment.

Physical Therapy Treatment

Physical therapists are movement specialists and will perform a thorough balance and movement evaluation. Your therapist will identify where the cerebellum is not performing properly and create a treatment plan. Several factors (age, hobbies, goals, family support system, and prior level of function) are taken into consideration when developing an individualized program.

Based on all of this information, the physical therapy treatment plan may include several of the following:

Eye movement exercises

Core strengthening

Exercises to improve head and eye movement

Arm and leg coordination activities

Balance retraining

Teaching safety strategies to prevent falls