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Carryover Effects of Cyclical Stretching of the Digits on Hand Function in Stroke Survivors

      Abstract

      Objective

      To investigate the longevity and cumulative impact of multiple sessions of passive, cyclical stretching of the digits on hand function in subacute stroke survivors.

      Design

      Before-after trial with intervention repeated on 3 consecutive days.

      Setting

      Research laboratory.

      Participants

      Individuals (N=27) with moderate to severe hand impairment, 2 to 6 months (subacute, n=12) and >7 months (chronic, n=15) poststroke.

      Interventions

      Subjects wore an actuated glove orthosis that cyclically moved their fingers and thumb from a relaxed/flexed posture into neutral extension for 30 minutes on 3 consecutive days.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Three hand-specific tasks from the Graded Wolf Motor Function Test, Box and Block Test (BBT), grip strength, and lateral pinch strength. Recordings were taken before stretching and at 3 time points, each separated by 30 minutes after completion of stretching on each day.

      Results

      Significant improvement was observed immediately after the stretching for both groups. Improvements in the subacute group were largely maintained up to 1 hour poststretching, with significant carryover from day to day for some outcomes measures such as the BBT (P=.006) and grip strength (P=.012). In contrast, improvements after stretching for the chronic group were transient, with the changes largely dissipating over time and no significant cumulative effect across days.

      Conclusions

      Cyclical stretching of the digits had a lasting and reinforcing effect on improving hand motor control for subacute stroke survivors. Incorporation of cyclical stretching before active hand therapy may prove to be a beneficial treatment for stroke survivors, especially during the subacute phase of recovery.

      Keywords

      List of abbreviations:

      ANOVA (analysis of variance), BBT (Box and Blocks Test), GWMFT (Graded Wolf Motor Function Test)
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