A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) occurs when the brain is deprived of blood flow from a brain blood vessel blockage or rupture. With the increased awareness of strokes and advances in treatment, the number of stroke survivors is expected to continue to increase.
Stroke survivors are often left with residual disability, usually in walking and locomotion. As part of a collaborative “LEAPS” project between rehabilitation researchers at Duke University and the University of Southern California, 5 community-based rehabilitation hospitals in Florida and California participated in a large NIH-funded stroke survivor study. According to the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, this was the largest stroke rehabilitation study ever conducted in the United States.
Researchers wanted to investigate the effectiveness of high-tech robot-assisted treadmill training compared to home-based physical therapy exercises or “usual care” on the ability to walk independently. More than 400 patients were randomly assigned to one of 3 groups: locomotor treadmill walking, home exercise program led by a physical therapist including Thera-Band® resistance band exercises, or a “usual control” group. The patients all had severe or moderate gait impairments.
The protocol for the study was published in BMC Neurology in 2007, and specifically included a Thera-Band color-based progression. The researchers presented their findings at the recent American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011 and were the subject of a widely-seen press release from the NIH. They concluded that the home-based physical therapy exercise utilizing Thera-Band resistance bands was as effective as more expensive treadmill training, and this benefit was maintained after one year. The study also suggested that stroke patients can continue to improve up to 1 year after stroke, despite traditional thinking that stroke recovery maximizes at 6 months.
The study’s lead investigator, Dr. Pamela Duncan, has published several other studies on stroke survivors using Thera-Band elastic resistance products. In conclusion, a home-based, physical therapist-directed exercise program including Thera-Band resistance bands was as effective as high-tech exercise on locomotion of stroke survivors up to one year post.