Background and purpose: On-going practice and use of the weaker upper extremity (UE) are important for maintaining and improving function in individuals with chronic stroke. The effectiveness of two self-training programs for UE function and daily-use was compared.
Methods: In this pilot, single-blinded clinical trial, individuals with chronic stroke were randomized to video-games or traditional self-training (1-hour/day, 6-times/week, 5 weeks). Assessments were performed pre-intervention (an average of two assessments), post-intervention, and at 4-week follow-up. The primary outcome was the functional ability of the upper extremity [The Action Research Arm Test (ARAT)]. Secondary measures were the daily use of the upper extremity [Motor Activity Log (MAL)] and manual dexterity (Box and Block Test). Repeated measures ANOVA was used to test the effectiveness and estimate effect sizes.
Results: Twenty-four of the 142 participants screened by phone were randomized to video-games [N = 13, mean (SD) age - 59.1 (10.5)] or traditional [N = 11, mean (SD) age - 64.9 (6.9)] self-training. Significant between-group differences were not detected. ARAT significantly improved by 13.9% and 9.6% following the video-games and traditional self-training programs (respectively), with a large effect size. MAL (quantity) also improved significantly between pre- intervention to follow-up with medium-large effect size.
Conclusions: UE functional improvement can be achieved by self-training at the chronic stage and, therefore, should be encouraged by clinicians. Implications for rehabilitation Video-games or traditional self-training programs can be used to practice repetitive UE movements without the supervision of a clinician Self-training of the UE is beneficial at the chronic stage post-stroke and, therefore, should be encouraged The type of self-training (video-games or traditional) should be suited to the client's abilities and preferences. The compliance of self-training using video-games during the follow-up period was higher than the traditional self-training. This is important since self-training programs for chronic stroke need to be long-term and sustainable.
Keywords: Stroke rehabilitation; chronic stroke; virtual reality.