Core Stability Exercises in Addition to Usual Care Physiotherapy Improve Stability and Balance After Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2021 Apr;102(4):762-775. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2020.09.388. Epub 2020 Oct 22.


Objective: To systematically review the effect of core stability exercises in addition to usual care physiotherapy on patient outcomes after stroke.

Data sources: Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health, MEDLINE, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), PubMed, and EMBASE were searched to November 2018.

Study selection: Eleven randomized controlled trials that compared usual care physiotherapy with usual care physiotherapy with additional core stability exercises in people with stroke were included. The initial search yielded 1876 studies.

Data extraction: Two independent reviewers applied inclusion and exclusion criteria and extracted data on methodological quality using the PEDro scale, participant characteristics, intervention details, outcome measures, and results.

Data synthesis: Postintervention means and SDs were pooled to calculate either the standardized mean difference (SMD) or the mean difference (MD) and 95% CIs using a random-effects model and inverse variance methods. There was moderate quality evidence to suggest the addition of core stability exercises to usual care physiotherapy improved trunk control (SMD, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.44-1.44; I2=69%), functional dynamic balance (SMD, 1.23; 95% CI, 0.5-1.97; I2=71%), and walking speed (MD, 0.27m/s; 95% CI, 0.01-0.52; I2=40%) in people with acute and chronic stroke. No significant effect was found when assessing functional ambulation categories or the timed Up and Go test, and mixed results were found for global functioning.

Conclusions: The addition of core stability exercises to usual care physiotherapy after stroke may lead to improved trunk control and dynamic balance. Therefore, core stability exercises should be included in rehabilitation if improvements in these domains will help clients achieve their goals. Future trials should consider incorporating outcomes of body kinematics during functional tasks to assess movement quality and assess participation outcomes.

Keywords: Exercise therapy; Rehabilitation; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stroke Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Torso / physiopathology*