Restraints being used to help stroke victims recover function

Sunday, January 27, 2008

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The School of Health Professionals at the University of Missouri is employing a relatively new therapy to help stroke survivors recover function.

The therapy disables the good limb, requiring the patient to learn to use the stroke-affected limb.

"What we find overall is after a stroke it's easier, it's faster to get it done with the stronger side, and then the weaker side just keeps getting weaker, gets used less and less and less," said Giuli Krug, a clinical assistant professor in occupational therapy and occupational science.

The restraints, which are used for eight weeks, force the use of the stroke-weakened arm and hand. Most of the therapy is practiced at home, making it possible for patients who live far from Columbia to take advantage of the therapy.

She hopes the results of her research will encourage insurance companies to cover the cost.

Recently, stroke survivor Angie Conrow of Fayette participated in a "constraint-induced therapy" session in which her good arm was immobilized in a sling while she uses her weakened arm to manipulate pegs.

Within about 10 minutes, she stopped dropping the pegs.

Two years ago, the 30-year-old mother of three suffered a stroke that affected the left side of her brain, inhibiting language and paralyzing the right side of her body. Doctors have not determined the cause of her stroke.

For Conrow, she said her goal is to be able to take care of her children. She said she will continue with the constraint-induced therapy as long as the school offers it.

Krug praised her efforts, saying her commitment and determination have helped her excel.

Despite her improvements, Conrow said "some days are good, and some days are bad."

Conrow said she thanks God for where she is.

"Sometimes, when I break down, I start crying for no reason or I start laughing for no reason. I'd rather laugh than cry."

Krug and her students are recruiting more stroke patients who were affected at least a year ago for the study to monitor treatment results.

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