The aim of this study was to verify the effects of loaded exercises associated with a task-oriented training (TOT) program in the recovery of upper-limb function in individuals with chronic hemiparesis after stroke.
This study used a single-blinded, randomized controlled trial. Patients were included into two TOT groups: one that performed the task-oriented therapy without load (TOT group, n = 10) and another one that performed task-oriented therapy with personalized resistance (TOT_ST group, n = 10) for 6 wks, for a total of 12 sessions. Main measures included The Upper Extremity Performance Test, shoulder flexor and handgrip strength, shoulder active range of motion, motor impairment (Fugl-Meyer Scale), and muscle tone.
The TOT_ST group demonstrated better scores relating to unilateral tasks and in the quality aspects of bilateral movements (The Upper Extremity Performance Test, P = 0.04) at the end of rehabilitation protocol. The highest muscle force gain was reached by the TOT_ST group for the shoulder flexors (P = 0.001). Similarly, the active range of motion (P = 0.01) and Fugl-Meyer scores (P = 0.001) were higher in the TOT_ST group compared with the TOT group. Both groups showed improvement after training.
Strength training was able to intensify the upper-limb rehabilitation, as demonstrated by the superior scores achieved by the TOT_ST group in most of the evaluated parameters. Muscle strength training might be a pivotal element of the task-oriented rehabilitation program of chronic patients with mild impairment after stroke.