In the world of post-stroke arm and hand rehabilitation, there are very few shortcuts. The path to recovery takes dedication and hard work. This hard work is generally in the form of exercises that work with your body to help promote steady, ongoing improvements that will provide long-term benefits. But what if we told you that your body might be taking shortcuts that were working against you? And that the path to recovery could come from restricting movement rather than encouraging it?
Studying trunk compensation
A team of researchers from Canada has investigated the effect of trunk compensation on stroke recovery. This occurs when patients use non-typical torso movements to compensate for limited movement in a stroke-affected limb. The researchers found that trunk compensation was common when patients were reaching for items that were below chest height, but was less frequent when patients were reaching for items placed higher. This phenomenon is likely due to the reduced flexibility in the shoulder muscles that often occurs following a stroke. This reduced flexibility tends to limit the degree of trunk compensation that is possible when reaching for higher targets. This lack of compensation means that patients tend to reach for items placed below chest height instinctively. This ‘shortcut’ might be limiting the benefits of therapy.
But it’s your recovery, and you should be in control. Researchers have recommended an approach to rehabilitation that can get you back on track. The team suggests exercises that use techniques that limit the amount of trunk compensation. Training like constraint-induced therapy, virtual reality, robotic arms, and gaming — techniques you should be familiar with if you’re a regular visitor to strokemark.com — promote the right kind of movements across all three dimensions.
So talk with your therapist about limiting trunk compensation, and take control of your recovery.
The lead author of this study is Bulmaro A. Valdes, RREACH: Robotics for Rehabilitation Exercise and Assessment in Collaborative Healthcare Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of British Columbia, VA, Canada.