The objective of this study is to examine the effect of gravity compensation training on reaching and underlying changes in muscle activation. In this clinical trial, eight chronic stroke patients with limited arm function received 18 sessions (30 min) of gravity-compensated reach training (during 6 weeks) in combination with a rehabilitation game. Before and after training, unsupported reach (assessing maximal distance, joint angles and muscle activity of eight shoulder and elbow muscles) and the Fugl-Meyer assessment were compared. After training, the maximal reach distance improved significantly by 3.5% of arm length, together with increased elbow extension (+9.2°) and increased elbow extensor activity (+68%). In some patients, a reduced cocontraction of biceps and anterior deltoid was also involved, although this was not significant on group level. Improvements in unsupported reach after gravity compensation training in chronic stroke patients with mild to severe hemiparesis were mainly accompanied by increased activation of prime movers at the elbow, although in some patients, improved selective joint control may also have been involved. Gravity compensation seems to be a suitable way to provide active, task-specific treatment, without the need for high-tech devices. Further research on a larger scale, including control groups and combinations of arm support with functional hand training, is essential to enhance the potential of arm support to complement poststroke arm rehabilitation.
- Gravity compensation training
- muscle activation
- BSS-Biomechatronics and rehabilitation technology