Progressive abduction loading therapy with horizontal-plane viscous resistance targeting weakness and flexion synergy to treat upper limb function in chronic hemiparetic stroke: A randomized clinical trial

Michael D. Ellis*, Carolina Carmona, Justin Drogos, Julius P.A. Dewald

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Progressive abduction loading therapy has emerged as a promising exercise therapy in stroke rehabilitation to systematically target the loss of independent joint control (flexion synergy) in individuals with chronic moderate/severe upper-extremity impairment. Preclinical investigations have identified abduction loading during reaching exercise as a key therapeutic factor to improve reaching function. An augmentative approach may be to additionally target weakness by incorporating resistance training to increase constitutive joint torques of reaching with the goal of improving reaching function by "overpowering" flexion synergy. The objective was, therefore, to determine the therapeutic effects of horizontal-plane viscous resistance in combination with progressive abduction loading therapy. Methods: 32 individuals with chronic hemiparetic stroke were randomly allocated to two groups. The two groups had equivalent baseline characteristics on all demographic and outcome metrics including age (59 ± 11 years), time poststroke (10.1 ± 7.6 years), and motor impairment (Fugl-Meyer, 26.7 ± 6.5 out of 66). Both groups received therapy three times/week for 8 weeks while the experimental group included additional horizontal-plane viscous resistance. Quantitative standardized progression of the intervention was achieved using a robotic device. The primary outcomes of reaching distance and velocity under maximum abduction loading and secondary outcomes of isometric strength and a clinical battery were measured at pre-, post-, and 3 months following therapy. Results: There was no difference between groups on any outcome measure. However, for combined groups, there was a significant increase in reaching distance (13.2%, effect size; d = 0.56) and velocity (13.6%, effect size; d = 0.27) at posttesting that persisted for 3 months and also a significant increase in abduction, elbow extension, and external rotation strength at posttesting that did not persist 3 months. Similarly, the clinical battery demonstrated a significant improvement in participant-reported measures of "physical problems" and "overall recovery" across all participants. Conclusion: The strengthening approach of incorporating horizontal-plane viscous resistance did not enhance the reaching function improvements observed in both groups. Data do not support the postulation that one can be trained to "overpower" the flexion synergy with resistance training targeting constitutive joint torques of reaching. Instead, flexion synergy must be targeted with progressive abduction loading to improve reaching function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number71
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Volume9
Issue numberFEB
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 19 2018

Keywords

  • Exercise therapy
  • Physical and rehabilitation medicine
  • Physical therapy modalities
  • Resistance training
  • Robotics
  • Stroke
  • Stroke rehabilitation
  • Upper extremity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Progressive abduction loading therapy with horizontal-plane viscous resistance targeting weakness and flexion synergy to treat upper limb function in chronic hemiparetic stroke: A randomized clinical trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this