Kristen M Triandafilou, José M Ochoa and Derek G Kamper
Background and Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of passive static and cyclical stretching of the fingers on hand function in subacute stroke survivors.
Participants: Thirteen stroke survivors, 2-5 months post-incident, with moderate to severe hand impairment took part in the study.
Method: Each participant completed three separate sessions, separated by at least one week, consisting of 30 minutes of: static stretch of the digits, cyclical stretch, or rest. Stretching was performed by a powered glove orthosis (X-Glove). Outcome measures, comprised of three timed hand-specific tasks from the Graded Wolf Motor Function Test (GWMFT-Time), grip termination time (GTT), grip strength, and lateral pinch strength, were assessed at the beginning and end of each session. Change in outcome score during each session was used for analysis.
Results: Data suggested a trend for improvement following stretching. Reduction in mean completion time for the GWMFT-Time after the cyclic stretching was 5 times greater than for the rest condition (P=0.010). After the static stretching, GTT was 31% faster than the mean pre-test times (P=0.055). Improvements in grip and pinch strength were also evident following the stretching interventions, although these changes did not reach statistical significance.
Discussion and Conclusion: While more study is needed, cyclically stretching the finger muscles in the stroke hand appears to be a promising treatment for stroke survivors in the subacute phase of recovery. It may prove especially effective as an adjuvant therapy facilitating subsequent performance of active movement therapy. Future studies exploring the neural correlates of improvement are warranted.
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