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Imagining Finger Movement Improves Function After Surgery

31 May

Researchers from the Department of Plastic Surgery of University Medical Center Groningen, in The Netherlands, sought to see whether practicing motor imagery during the immobilization period after flexor tendon injury results in a faster recovery of hand function.

The randomized controlled trial included 28 patients, post-surgery for flexor tendon repair, who were randomly assigned to either an intervention group or a control group.

The intervention group practiced kinesthetic motor imagery (imagining the feel of moving, in other words) of finger flexion movements during the postoperative dynamic splinting period.

The central aspects of hand function were measured with a preparation time test of finger flexion, in which subjects pressed buttons as fast as possible following a visual stimulus.

Additionally, the following hand function tests were used: the Michigan Hand Questionnaire, the visual analog scale for hand function, kinematic analysis of drawing, active total motion, and strength.

After the immobilization period, the motor imagery group demonstrated significantly less  preparation time than the control group (P=.024). There was no significant influence of motor imagery on the other tested hand function (P>.05). All tests except kinematic analysis (P=.570) showed a significant improvement across time after the splinting period (P</=.001).

The investigators conclude that motor imagery significantly improves central aspects of hand function, namely movement preparation time, while other modalities of hand function appear to be unaffected.

Citation: Stenekes MW, Geertzen JH, Nicolai JP, De Jong BM, Mulder T.  Effects of motor imagery on hand function during immobilization after flexor tendon repairArchives of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation 2009 Apr (4): pages 553-9.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award