A new hand and arm therapy shows promise for stroke patients

April 15, 2018

Many patients have trouble using a hand or arm after a stroke. A recent study suggests HABIT, a therapy approach developed at the Columbia University Teachers College Center for Cerebral Palsy, may be more effective than conventional rehabilitation therapies at helping you get both of your hands back in operation. Researchers need to conduct more studies, but the treatment makes sense. It has no known negative side effects and appears to be effective.

The advantages of bimanual therapy

HABIT (Hand-Arm Bimanual Intensive Therapy) was originally developed for children suffering from Cerebral Palsy on one side of the body (hemiplegic or unilateral CP). It is an intensive course of therapy that emphasizes using and coordinating both hands to accomplish complex tasks. It makes sense because most daily tasks involve both hands working together. The new study conducted by Chinese and American researchers randomly divided 123 acute stroke patients into two groups. A control group received conventional rehab while the treatment group received an adult-oriented version of HABIT (shorter sessions, no video games or card games). Each group received two one-hour therapy sessions per day. A licensed therapist worked with the patients for 10 days with a two-day break in the middle. While both groups made progress, the HABIT group made noticeably more.

This is the first study about using HABIT as a therapy for adults or stroke patients. However, the results are promising. If you have problems using a hand or arm, this could be for you. Talk to your therapist about whether it should be a part of your therapy regimen.

The first author of the original article was Guilin Meng, Shanghai Tenth People’s Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.

Editorial note:

There is increasing evidence that training both hands after stroke improves your motor control. This study is a recent example of this relatively new training approach.

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