Robotic Therapy Devices Improve Quality of Life For Stroke Survivors According to a research report featured in Physical Therapy “Stroke is the most prevalent cause of adult-onset disability in the United States. An estimated 5.8 million people who have had a stroke have residual neurological deficits.” At 6 months post-stroke, most individuals recovering from stroke cannot incorporate their affected extremity into daily activities, which is likely to reduce the stroke survivor’s perceived quality of life.
This article will discuss multiple forms of stroke therapy including how robotic therapy devices may be an adjunct or viable alternative to the delivery of intensive repetitive task practice therapy to enhance hand or foot function recovery for stroke survivors.
Repetitive task practice therapy, frequently used in a constraint-induced movement therapy regimen, has been proven to improve hand and foot functions as well as quality of life in stroke survivors. Repetitive task practice consists of breaking down tasks into specific segments. These segments are then practiced individually until they can be successfully completed. Afterward, the patient practices integrating the individual segments into an entire task.
Repetitive task practice therapy has been proven to be successful. However, this therapy is extremely labor-intensive, costly and, unfortunately, can become very tedious for both the patient and the therapist. Robotic therapy devices continue to improve in control, design and usability and may offer a viable solution to improving upper- and lower-extremity motor control and function while relieving demand on the therapist and providing a more entertaining experience for the patient.
Stroke rehabilitation literature indicates there is strong evidence to support the theory that intensity and task specificity are indicators of an effective stroke treatment program. In addition, training should be functional, meaningful, repetitive and challenging to the stroke survivor. These are characteristics of successful repetitive task practice interventions. Despite there proven success, repetitive task practice therapies have not been widely implemented in their current form due to substantial obstacles, including cost of delivering this therapy and limited duration of standard therapy sessions.
The use of robotic therapy devices as an effective method for delivery of repetitive task practice therapy is appealing because this approach may enhance the patient’s recovery process through increased intensity and specificity.
Robotic therapy devices focus on improving motor function by enhancing the patient’s active range of motion of the upper and lower extremities. These devices are based on principles of motor learning. They engage the patient and provide feedback to patients as they perform repetitive tasks. These robotic therapy devices provide consistent and precise therapy for extended periods of time without fatigue. Also, these devices provide an increase in the quantity and quality of afferent information the patient receives and may facilitate motor learning or relearning. Supplementing therapist-directed motor learning and relearning with a robotic therapy device may enhance the patient’s improvement in motor function.
Robotic assisted therapy is beginning to gain more clinical acceptance as the effects and benefits of this therapy are being documented. If you or a loved one has recently suffered a stroke, contact your local physician for more information about repetitive task practices as well as robotic therapy devices.