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The adjunctive role of mental practice in the rehabilitation of the upper limb after hemiplegic stro

04 Oct
In a small pilot study, researchers from The University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, in Antrim, Northern Ireland examined the efficacy of mental practice (imagery) as an adjunct in the rehabilitation of the upper limb following stroke with patients on a rehabilitation unit in Belfast. Subjects were 14 patients admitted for rehabilitation of their first stroke: six men and four women, aged 45-81, between 10 and 176 days post stroke.

Each patient underwent a single-case design, with two weeks baseline, two weeks intervention and one week withdrawal. The intervention consisted of structured daily mental practice sessions of a reach and grasp task, in addition to their usual therapy. The upper limb component of the Motricity Index was used to grade motor activity sequentially across the timescale of the study.

Of the 14 patients recruited, four withdrew and 10 completed the study. Nine showed improvement in upper limb Motricity Index score with mental practice, as measured by the two-band standard deviation method. One of these cases demonstrated an unstable baseline such that changes could not be attributed to intervention. This pilot study concludes that mental practice may well be useful as an adjunct to physiotherapy after stroke.

Citation: Crosbie JH, McDonough SM, Gilmore DH, Wiggam MI. The adjunctive role of mental practice in the rehabilitation of the upper limb after hemiplegic stroke: a pilot study. Clinical Rehabilitation. 2004 Feb;18 (1): pages 60-68.

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