New Therapy Helps Stroke Patients

'Shaping' rehabilitation more effective than occupational therapy, study finds

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MONDAY, Sept. 22, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- People who suffer a stroke or traumatic brain injury may benefit from a behavior-based therapy called shaping, a technique that may help them recover more efficiently than other treatments.

That finding comes from a British-German study in the Sept. 23 issue of Neurology.

The study included 13 young adults (aged 17-21) who had muscle weakness or partial paralysis in an arm after they suffered severe traumatic brain injury or stroke.

Researchers conducted two phases, each lasting three weeks. During the first phase, the patients had occupational therapy for 90 minutes a day. There was no significant improvement in their arm movement during that phase.

In the second phase, the patients received shaping therapy for 90 minutes a day. Arm movement in all the patients improved after this second phase, the study found.

In the shaping therapy, the patients were trained individually to perform increasingly difficult tasks with their affected arm. They are rewarded for improvements in their abilities. Their tasks involved everyday activities such as pressing a light switch, moving a chair and pulling up socks.

Encouragement from clinical staff was the reward offered to the patients when they achieved a task.

"Prior to shaping, the patients' affected arms had reached a low-functioning plateau for several months or years, in some cases," study author Annette Sterr, of the University of Liverpool, says in a news statement.

"The study shows that shaping -- training, repetition and working with the affected limb -- makes progress and helps the brain to adapt," Sterr says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about stroke rehabilitation.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Sept. 22, 2003

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