Background. Patients with an upper limb motor impairment are likely to develop wrist hyper-resistance during the first months post stroke. The time course of wrist hyper-resistance in terms of neural and biomechanical components, and their interaction with motor recovery, is poorly understood. Objective. To investigate the time course of neural and biomechanical components of wrist hyper-resistance in relation to upper limb motor recovery in the first 6 months post stroke. Methods. Neural (NC), biomechanical elastic (EC), and viscous (VC) components of wrist hyper-resistance (NeuroFlexor device), and upper limb motor recovery (Fugl-Meyer upper extremity scale [FM-UE]), were assessed in 17 patients within 3 weeks and at 5, 12, and 26 weeks post stroke. Patients were stratified according to the presence of voluntary finger extension (VFE) at baseline. Time course of wrist hyper-resistance components and assumed interaction effects were analyzed using linear mixed models. Results. On average, patients without VFE at baseline (n = 8) showed a significant increase in NC, EC, and VC, and an increase in FM-UE from 13 to 26 points within the first 6 months post stroke. A significant increase in NC within 5 weeks preceded a significant increase in EC between weeks 12 and 26. Patients with VFE at baseline (n = 9) showed, on average, no significant increase in components from baseline to 6 months whereas FM-UE scores improved from 38 to 60 points. Conclusion. Our findings suggest that the development of neural and biomechanical wrist hyper-resistance components in patients with severe baseline motor deficits is determined by lack of spontaneous neurobiological recovery early post stroke.
Keywords: biomechanical phenomena; muscle spasticity; recovery of function; stroke; upper extremity.