Objective: To determine the effects of a sensory retraining protocol on sensation, postural control, and gait in acute stroke subjects.
Design: Randomized controlled pilot trial.
Setting: Inpatient rehabilitation hospital.
Participants: Twenty-one subjects with sensory deficits in the feet, undergoing rehabilitation for stroke.
Intervention: Sensory retraining of the more affected lower limb versus relaxation (sham intervention).
Main outcome measures: Light touch at the sole of the foot (Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments), proprioception (Distal Proprioception Test), postural control (Berg Balance Scale), and gait (timed, Iowa Level of Assistance Scale).
Results: Significant improvements (P<.05) over time were found in light touch at 3 points of the feet and in postural control, timed gait, and walking aid. No significant time effects were observed in proprioception or amount of assistance required to walk. No significant differences were detected between groups in any of the outcome variables, apart from light touch at the first metatarsal. The study had poor power (13%) to detect group effects due to the small sample size.
Conclusions: Results of this pilot study are unable to support or refute the routine use of sensory retraining of the lower limb for people during inpatient rehabilitation after stroke. Further research with a larger sample size is required.