Bobath therapy is inferior to task-specific training and not superior to other interventions in improving lower limb activities after stroke: a systematic review

J Physiother. 2020 Oct;66(4):225-235. doi: 10.1016/j.jphys.2020.09.008. Epub 2020 Oct 14.


Question: In adults with stroke, does Bobath therapy improve lower limb activity performance, strength or co-ordination when compared with no intervention or another intervention?

Design: Systematic review of randomised trials with meta-analyses.

Participants: Adults after stroke.

Intervention: Bobath therapy compared with another intervention or no intervention.

Outcome measures: Lower limb activity performance (eg, sit to stand, walking, balance), lower limb strength and lower limb co-ordination. Trial quality was assessed using the PEDro scale.

Results: Twenty-two trials were included in the review and 17 in the meta-analyses. The methodological quality of the trials varied, with PEDro scale scores ranging from 2 to 8 out of 10. No trials compared Bobath therapy to no intervention. Meta-analyses estimated the effect of Bobath therapy on lower limb activities compared with other interventions, including: task-specific training (nine trials), combined interventions (four trials), proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (one trial) and strength training (two trials). The pooled data indicated that task-specific training has a moderately greater benefit on lower limb activities than Bobath therapy (SMD 0.48), although the true magnitude of the benefit may be substantially larger or smaller than this estimate (95% CI 0.01 to 0.95). Bobath therapy did not clearly improve lower limb activities more than a combined intervention (SMD -0.06, 95% CI -0.73 to 0.61) or strength training (SMD 0.35, 95% CI -0.37 to 1.08). In one study, Bobath therapy was more effective than proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation for improving standing balance (SMD -1.40, 95% CI -1.92 to -0.88), but these interventions did not differ on any other outcomes. Bobath therapy did not improve strength or co-ordination more than other interventions.

Conclusions: Bobath therapy was inferior to task-specific training and not superior to other interventions, with the exception of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Prioritising Bobath therapy over other interventions is not supported by current evidence.

Registration: PROSPERO CRD42019112451.

Keywords: Bobath; Lower limb; Physical therapy; Stroke; Walking.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Stroke* / therapy
  • Walking