After having a stroke, upper limb function can be drastically reduced. Every day tasks such as grasping, reaching, pushing and pulling are often affected. In stroke rehabilitation, there are multiple treatment options a therapist can use to address these upper limb deficits. However because there are so many options, it is important to find out whether the chosen treatment technique is actually effective, according to the clinical research.

A large study (systematic review) conducted in 2014 found moderate evidence to support the use of the following interventions in addressing the upper limb after a stroke:

  1. Constraint-induced movement therapy
  2. Mental practice
  3. Mirror therapy
  4. Interventions that improve sensation to the affected arm, such as sensory re-education, repetitive sensory practice or desensitisation
  5. Virtual reality

The evidence also suggests that a high dose of repetitive practice is very important, but more research is required to determine the optimal dose. Additionally.. put away your “good” arm! Exercising just the affected arm may be more effective than exercising both arms at once. Evidence remains inconclusive for new and emerging technology such as brain stimulation techniques or robotics for upper limb rehab and therefore are not currently recommended.

My Rehab Team physiotherapists are able to provide effective treatment options for stroke survivors targeting their upper limb whilst at home. Contact us for more information.

References:

Pollock  A, Farmer  SE, Brady  MC, Langhorne  P, Mead  GE, Mehrholz  J, van Wijck  F. Interventions for improving upper limb function after stroke. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD010820. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010820.pub2.

Image courtesy of the National Institute for Health Research. Available at: https://discover.dc.nihr.ac.uk/content/signal-000692/stroke-rehabilitation-using-robot-assisted-arm-training