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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 01:32 GMT
Therapy could help stroke recovery
Patients left with loss of movement on one side after a stroke could benefit from therapies that force them to use the affected limbs.

Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIM) appears to have worked for some patients in small-scale trials over the past few years.

Stroke patients can be left with partial paralysis because of the temporary loss of blood flow to a particular area of the brain causes damage, sometimes permanently.

Many stroke patients left with damage to one side of the body tend to rely more heavily on the "good" side to carry out everyday tasks.

The brain may even compensate for the damage by improving the function of the other.

However, without stimulation, the "bad side" may be far slower to recover.

The latest study, reported in the journal Stroke, tested the technique on 23 patients, who were asked to wear a mitten over the "good" hand, restricting what they could do with.

They did this for six hours a day, five days a week, for two weeks.

Buttoning a shirt

After this period, the CIM patients showed more improvement in arm strength and coordination than patients who received conventional occupational therapy.

Tasks such as buttoning a shirt or using a fork became much easier.

The technique is not yet used in the UK, although trials are planned.

Dr Peter Langhorne, a senior lecturer in geriatric medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: "We know that it can work for some people under some circumstances, but we're not sure whether it will work for every patient - or whether it's worth it, both the money and the inconvenience."

Approximately between one fifth and perhaps even one third of stroke patients may be suitable for CIM, he said.

Dr Val Pomeroy, the director of the Stroke Association's Therapy Research Unit at Manchester University, said that more money was needed to pay for therapy for stroke patients.

She said: "Very often there is a rush to get people discharged from hospital so the concentration is on the lower limbs rather than the upper limbs.

"I don't think CIM is going to be suitable for everyone. We need many more studies and more robust clinical excellence."

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