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Constraint Therapy Helps Arm Function After Stroke

Immobilization of less-affected extremity forces patients to use impaired arm

TUESDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke patients who force themselves to use a paretic upper extremity by restraining their less-impaired arm can improve motor function in the impaired arm within a year, according to a report in the Nov. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Steven Wolf, Ph.D., P.T., of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and members of the Extremity Constraint-Induced Therapy Evaluation (EXCITE) study conducted a prospective, single-blind, randomized trial of constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) in 222 individuals with predominately ischemic stroke in the previous three to nine months.

Twelve months after treatment, the CIMT group had improved motor function scores and used their impaired extremity more than the control group. The CIMT group also reported a greater decrease in self-perceived hand function difficulty than the control group.

"The EXCITE trial clearly suggests that more recovery after stroke is possible than neuroscientists currently teach in professional schools or training programs and than clinicians have been telling patients to expect," write Andreas R. Luft, M.D., of the University of Tubingen, Germany, and a colleague in an accompanying editorial.

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