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Movement Therapy Helps Stroke Patients

Study Shows Long-Term Benefit From Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy

Candidates for Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy

Participants in the study had to be capable of some initial movement in the limb affected by the stroke, Wolf says. With their wrist hanging over a table, palm down, for instance, a stroke patient had to be able to raise the hand without lifting the arm.

"Up to 30% of the stroke population, we think, could benefit from this therapy," Wolf tells WebMD. About 700,000 Americans have a stroke each year, according to the American Stroke Association.

Participants in the trial who were part of the "delayed treatment" group -- which got movement therapy a year later than the others -- weren't included in the two-year follow-up. At the two-year analysis, 34% of the "immediate treatment" patients had dropped out.

The therapy is widely available, Wolf says, but is typically not reimbursed by insurance. The cost is about $10,000, Wolf says, not including travel costs to a center.

Second Opinions

The movement therapy is worth a try, according to the American Heart Association. In its 2005 stroke rehab guidelines, the association says that constraint-induced therapy should be considered for a select group of patients -- those with sufficient wrist and finger extension who are free of sensory and cognitive defects.

According to the guidelines, the only demonstrated benefit is to those receiving six to eight hours of daily training for at least two weeks.

The American Physical Therapy Association does not have a position on any treatment method, including constraint-induced therapy. But spokeswoman Jennifer Rondon says the association supports research on the therapy.

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