FOTO Rehab Outcomes Blog

Hand Function after a Stroke: Mirror Therapy or Neuromuscular Stimulation

Written by Selena Horner | Mar 8, 2017 11:00:00 AM

I have been wondering when we'd begin seeing studies using mirror therapy for individuals who have had a stroke. Although this study doesn't really have a huge number of subjects, it does open the door to consider the use of mirror therapy. I'm not sure if the mirror therapy is the key or if the key is actively using the affected hand multiple times during the day in what may feel more functional.

Here's a quick view of the abstract. 

Comparison of the effects of mirror therapy and electromyography-triggered neuromuscular stimulation on hand functions in stroke patients: a pilot study.



To determine the effectiveness of mirror therapy and electromyography (EMG)-triggered neuromuscular stimulation on improvement of functions of the upper extremity in patients with subacute stroke in comparison with conventional therapy as well as to evaluate the advantage of each treatment over another, we conducted a prospective, randomized, and controlled trial involving 24 patients with ischemic stroke.

The mean age and mean time since stroke of the patients were 58.79±11.49 years and 5.25±2.25 months. Patients were assigned randomly to a mirror therapy group (MT group, n=9), which consisted of therapy with a mirror box 5 days/week, 30 min/day, for 3 weeks, an electrostimulation group (ES group, n=7), which consisted of therapy with EMG-triggered stimulation (EMG-stim) of similar duration and frequency of treatment as the MT group, and a control group (n=8). All the groups received conventional physiotherapy for the same period as the MT group. Patients in the MT group practiced their therapy at home after supervised sessions. The Fugl-Meyer scores of the upper extremity, grip force, wrist extension, and Box and Block Test were evaluated at baseline, after treatment, and at 3 months after the treatment. All of these measures were evaluated by a blinded researcher.

We found that there was no significant improvement in wrist extension range and grip force in control group. The MT and EMG-stim were effective in increasing the Fugl-Meyer motor scale for upper extremity (MT group: P<0.01), increasing wrist extension range, grip force, and hand dexterity determined by the Box and Block Test (MT group and ES group P<0.05). Furthermore, hand skills were increased significantly in the MT group compared with the ES group at the follow-up assessment (P<0.05).

This pilot study suggested that MT was more efficient in improving motor performance than physiotherapy alone. Also, MT may be more useful in improving the hand skills compared with EMG-stim. We assume that this difference might be related to the feasibility of maintenance of MT at home.

Int J Rehabil Res. 2016 Dec;39(4):302-307.