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18-02-2013 | Physical rehabilitation | Article

Reflections raise rehabilitation efficacy for stroke survivors


Free abstract

medwireNews: Mirror therapy helps stroke survivors achieve better functional outcomes than physical therapy alone, suggest study findings.

Mirror therapy, during which patients perform arm exercises in front of a mirror in which they can only see their unaffected arm, has shown potential as an inexpensive and effective rehabilitation method for improving motor efficacy after stroke. But less is known about the impact of this type of therapy on sensory recovery in these patients.

Keh-chung Lin (National Taiwan University, Taipei) and colleagues therefore investigated the effects of such therapy on both motor and sensory outcomes in 33 patients who had experienced stroke and had mild-to-moderate motor impairment.

The researchers randomly assigned the participants to undertake 4 weeks of upper extremity physical therapy for 1.5 hours/day, five times a week either without using a mirror (controls; n=17) or using a mirror (mirror therapy group; n=16).

As reported in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, using the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) the mirror therapy group had significantly better overall scores than controls after completion of therapy. Regarding the subsections of the FMA, those in the mirror therapy group also had significantly greater improvements in reaction time, normalized total displacement, and maximum shoulder-elbow cross-correlation than controls.

In addition, the mirror therapy group had better temperature sensing scores on the revised Nottingham Sensory Assessment (rNSA) than the control group.

The team notes that no significant differences between the two groups were seen using the Motor Activity Log test or the ABILHAND questionnaire.

Lin and co-workers concede that their study group was small and suggest: "Future research on mirror therapy might refine our current protocol to study patients with sensory and perceptual deficits using a larger sample size with varying characteristics."

However, they conclude: "Our findings suggest that in addition to positive effects on motor function, mirror therapy might improve motor preplanning and spatial efficiency in movement execution and multijoint coordination and have promising effects on temperature sensation recovery."

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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