Reconsidering the motor recovery plateau in stroke rehabilitation

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2004 Aug;85(8):1377-81. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2003.12.031.


Termination of motor rehabilitation is often recommended as patients with cerebrovascular accident (CVA) become more chronic and/or when they fail to respond positively to motor rehabilitation (commonly termed a "plateau"). Managed-care programs frequently reinforce this practice by restricting care to patients responding to therapy and/or to the most acute patients. When neuromuscular adaptation occurs in exercise, rather than terminating the current regimen, a variety of techniques (eg, modifying intensity, attempting different modalities) are used to facilitate neuromuscular adaptations. After presenting the concepts of the motor recovery plateau and adaptation, we similarly posit that patients with CVA adapt to therapeutic exercise but that this is not indicative of a diminished capacity for motor improvement. Instead, like traditional exercise circumstances, adaptive states can be overcome by modifying regimen aspects (eg, intensity, introducing new exercises). Findings suggesting that patients with chronic CVA can benefit from motor rehabilitation programs that apply novel or different parameters and modalities. The objectives of this commentary are to (1) to encourage practitioners to reconsider the notion of the motor recovery plateau, (2) to reconsider chronic CVA patients' ability to recover motor function, and (3) to use different modalities when accommodation is exhibited.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Humans
  • Managed Care Programs
  • Motor Skills*
  • Patient Selection
  • Periodicity
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / methods*
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation
  • Stroke* / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome