Stroke victims exercise strong limbs to help weak

POSTMEDIA NEWS: DECEMBER 8, 2012

Stroke victims can make astonishing gains in strength in weakened limbs by training the unaffected limbs on the other side of their body, according to new research by the University of Victoria.

Neuroscientist Paul Zehr and PhD candidate Katie Dragert designed “ridiculously simple” devices made of wooden boards and cloth straps that stroke victims used to strengthen the muscles in their legs and ankles. Patients completed a six-week high-intensity training regime – not with the limbs weakened by the stroke, but with the limbs that were less affected or unaffected.

What happened surprised even the researchers.

Patients gained as much strength in the weakened leg as they did in the leg that did the exercises. Patients achieved strength gains of about 30 per cent in both the trained and untrained legs, a far more dramatic effect than previous research on healthy people had achieved.

The finding promises to be a boon to patients whose limb strength is so impaired by stroke that they can’t lift or train the affected parts. Read more