Coronavirus has you staying at home — therapy is still a must!
The coronavirus crisis is keeping us all at home, which means it’s harder to stay fit. That’s why we need to prioritize our health and our therapy. Being home-bound doesn’t have to get in the way of your stroke recovery. Even though the coronavirus might prevent you from getting to your regular therapy sessions, studies show that home training can be just as effective. Be diligent and keep yourself on track.
What approaches can work at home?
Two approaches that researchers have shown can be adapted to do at home are mirror therapy and task-specific training. Given the ease of implimenting these sort of methods in the clinical environment, researchers wondered why they haven’t been used more at home.
Mirror therapy has emerged as a novel upper body rehabilitation technique, with current evidence showing promise for stroke patients. To try this at home set up a mirror between your healthy side and affected side. Perform tasks with the healthy side while looking at the reflection in the mirror. By doing this, the brain creates new connections in the brain that will help your affected side to regain function. There are a number of things you can try. To start, you can try moving small objects or writing on paper.
This video shows some mirror therapy exercises that you can try at home.
Task-specific training is another recommended approach for stroke rehabilitation, emphasizing active, repetitive practice of functional activities. This approach is based on challenging, practical, and goal-directed actions under varying conditions. This type of training involves activities of daily living like performing tasks involved in cooking or doing laundry.
Watch this online exercise class with exercises you can do at home
Both mirror therapy and task-specific training are ways that patients can engage in therapy at home. Home-based rehabilitation allows you to practice functional activities in a comfortable environment that may also present challenges unique to your recovery. Knowing that you can reliably achieve specific everyday tasks in your home can bring you confidence that you might not realize in the clinic or rehab center.
Testing the results of rehabilitation at home
Researchers from Taiwan investigated whether home-based mirror therapy and task-specific training produced outcomes comparable with traditional clinic-based practice. The researchers randomly assigned participants to either home-based or clinic-based therapy. They received 12 training sessions for four weeks. Each session consisted of 30-45 minutes of mirror therapy followed by 45-60 minutes of task-specific training in both groups. Mirror therapy activities included range of motion exercises, manipulating objects, performing functional tasks, and sensory stimulation. Task-specific therapy included opening drawers, towel wringing, folding clothes, laundry-based maneuvers, walking, and transferring between positions. After 4 weeks, the group that received home-based rehabilitation first received the clinic-based rehabilitation and vice versa.
Is training at home effective?
The results showed that both home-based and clinic-based rehabilitation provide benefits, however, to different aspects of your health. Home-based training improved patients’ upper body use for everyday tasks compared to clinic-based patients. It also resulted in patients exhibiting more lower body strength when transferring from a sitting position to standing. In contrast, the clinic-based patients saw more benefits to their overall quality of life. Both groups experienced improvements to their level of impairment. They also all gained confidence in their ability to care for themselves, be productive, and partake in leisure activities.
Home-based training during the coronavirus crisis
During the coronavirus crisis, training at home is your best option. You need to exercise, and it will help you to continue to make progress. Try some task-specific training like folding laundry, opening jars, or transferring the contents of one bowl to another as demonstated in the video above. Try to get up and walk more often each day. Even if you can’t get outside, getting up more often for short distances in the house will help. Set up a mirror between your affected and non-affected side and try transferring pennies from a table surface to a jar. If there are any other exercises you do with your therapist that you can do at home, do them. You might even be able to find some free programs on Youtube. The important thing to remember is that you have to continue your therapy even though the location of your sessions has changed.
The lead author of the original article was Yu-wei Hsieh, Department of Occupational Therapy and Graduate Institute of Behavioral Sciences, College of Medicine, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan.