Treatment of severe hand impairment following stroke by combining assisted movement, muscle vibration, and biofeedback

Paul Cordo, Steven Wolf, Jau Shin Lou, Ross Bogey, Matthew Stevenson, John Hayes, Elliot Roth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: Few studies have addressed the rehabilitation of hand function in persons with severe impairment following stroke, and few therapeutic options are available for treatment. We investigated whether an intervention of robot-assisted movement and muscle vibration could reduce impairment and enable hand-opening to a greater extent when combined with torque biofeedback or elec-tromyographic (EMG) biofeedback. Methods: Forty-three participants with severe hand impairment due to chronic stroke (≥1 year poststroke) were randomized to 1 of 2 treatment groups receiving assisted movement and muscle vibration combined with either torque or EMG biofeedback. Each participant received 30 sessions (30 minutes duration per session) directed at the impaired hand over 10 to 12 weeks. Outcomes were assessed using the Upper Extremity Fugl-Meyer Assessment (UE-FMA), Stroke Impact Scale, and Box-and-Block Test scores. Results: Twenty-eight of 43 participants had no baseline finger extension; the remainder had an average of 23 ± 26 mm extension in the most active finger. Assisted movement and muscle vibration were associated with a significant increase in all outcome measures across both treatmentgroups, and for the UE-FMA and Stroke Impact Scale within treatment groups, with no significant difference between groups. Based on the Box-and-Block Test scores, the assisted movement and muscle vibration intervention did not restore functional hand-opening to participants with baseline UE-FMA scores less than 17/66, regardless of the form of biofeedback. Discussion and Conclusions: Assisted movement and muscle vibration, combined with either EMG or torque biofeedback, appears to reduce upper limb impairment, improve volitional activation of the hand muscles, and restore a modicum of hand function in some persons with severe hand impairment due to chronic stroke. Video Abstract available (see Video, Supplemental Digital Content 1, for more insights from the authors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-203
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurologic Physical Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Co-contraction
  • EMG
  • Motor dysfunction
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Spasticity
  • Weakness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Neurology


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