Many patients express wanting to improve their arm and hand function after a stroke. But a lot of them have trouble increasing the strength on their affected side or knowing even how to begin. That got us thinking about how we can help patients regain control of their movements. Finding a solution has kept the team at Strokemark quite busy, but we’re excited about what we’ve developed and how people reacted to it.
We developed a 6-week arm and hand course to help
We recruited stroke patients to take part in our 6-week study to improve arm and hand function. All of the patients had a stroke between one and five years ago. This chronic stage is generally the period when not much improvement is expected. That’s why it can be hard for patients to stay motivated and continue with a program. But we didn’t want to give up so easily and neither did our group.
At the beginning of each session, we measured the patients’ blood pressure and hand strength. During our weekly meetings, we went over specific exercises and explained why and how these particular exercises work. We practiced the exercises together so that patients knew exactly how to perform them when they went home. At the end of each meeting, we gave the patients homework that they needed to do each day.
What were the outcomes of the course?
Based on the weekly measurements, the objective outcomes of the course showed that, on average, patients experienced a 170% improvement of the affected arm and hand. One patient even showed a 500% increase in strength! He went from having very little to no strength to being able to use his hand and arm. Without this patient, the average improvement was 123% — still impressive for chronic stroke patients. Patients even increased the strength of their unaffected arm by 114%.
The subjective results were even more interesting. Patients filled out questionnaires at the beginning and end of the course where they rated their arm and hand strength and function. The patients felt much better about their improvements than our numbers actually showed. Patients perceived a 230% improvement in strength on the affected side. And they felt like they had a 192% improvement in functionality.
What did patients and caregivers say?
Patients found the program intense and hard work, but they were happy with the outcomes. They stuck with the course even though most of them didn’t see results until 3-4 weeks into it. And family members and therapists observed a difference too, sometimes even before the patients noticed it themselves. Caregivers could see that their loved ones were able to reach higher and do more with their affected side.
Time and time again, we see stroke survivors making progress when others thought they couldn’t. Our group of patients proves it’s possible. We will make our 6-week arm and hand course availble to a wider audience soon. We’ll keep you updated and let you know when you can participate.