Are Robots Key to Stroke Recovery?

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According to a study presented earlier this year at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference, stroke victims paralyzed on one side of their body who received both standard physical rehabilitation and robotic-assisted therapy achieved greater arm and shoulder mobility than patients who were not treated with the new technology.

The study, conducted at the Kitasato University East Hospital in Kanagawa, Japan, involved 60 stroke patients with an average age of 65. All the study volunteers initially received standard rehabilitation therapy from an occupational therapist. Then half of the volunteers were given 40 minute-sessions of robotic therapy every day for six weeks, which involved five preprogrammed repetitive exercise movements, while the other half performed manual stretching exercises of their affected arm for the same amount of time. 

At the end of six weeks, the patients on the robotic therapy had greater recovery of their upper body motor function, including in their shoulder, elbow, and forearm, than the patients who received standard physical rehabilitation therapy alone.

Robotic therapy, said the study researchers, provides the consistent repetitive movement, essential in the recovery of paralyzed limbs, that physical and occupational therapists aren't always able to provide.

For example, in the study, patients using rehabilitation robots, which involves the use of machines designed to aid patients in performing specific tasks, such as helping them extend their arms forward, were able to repeat movements the exact way every time, helping patients retrain their brains on how to perform these tasks.

Although the results were promising, the study investigators cautioned that further research with larger numbers of volunteers would be needed to prove the efficacy of robotic therapy in stroke victims.

Preventing Stroke

You can help avoid a stroke by making healthy lifestyle choices and managing any medical conditions you may have, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. Some lifestyle changes to prevent a stroke include:

  • Eating a healthy diet that features plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber.
  • Maintaining a health weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for stroke. Strive for a body mass index (BMI) of 24.9 or less.
  • Quitting smoking. Cigarette smoking greatly raises your risk for stroke.
  • Staying active. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise, most days of the week.

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Medical News Today. "Arm, Shoulder Mobility After Stroke Can Be Improved By Robot Therapy."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "How to Prevent Stroke."