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UF research: For stroke recovery, two therapies better than one

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- For millions who have lasting paralysis after a stroke, the key to regaining movement may lie in a combination of therapies, according to a new University of Florida study.

People with chronic weakness and partial paralysis who moved both arms simultaneously in conjunction with mild electrical stimulation to their affected limb regained significantly more motion than those who moved only their paralyzed arm or received no therapy at all, according to study published in the June 7 edition of Stoke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Study participants who received combined therapies regained greater movement in their impaired arms, as well as improved their reaction times. They also were able to sustain muscle contractions longer, indicating they were capable of stronger and more consistent voluntary control.

Before therapy, many participants were unable to perform simple tasks, said James Cauraugh, co-director of the Center for Exercise Science at UF's College of Health and Human Performance.

"Most of these people just want to be independent. They don't want to depend on a significant other to help them eat, help them drink, hold the phone or use the remote control," said Cauraugh, lead investigator on the American Heart Association-funded study. "You can't regain a previous life because of this protocol, but you can be significantly better off than if your arm is just hanging at your side."

Many of the 600,000 Americans who suffer strokes annually experience a spontaneous recovery of motion within the first year afterward. For most 60 percent or more however, overcoming persistent disability on one side of the body proves elusive, particularly as time passes.

Mack Statham, 64, said he had little use of his right arm after his stroke four years ago, requiring that he learn to do everything with his left hand. After undergoing the combined therapy, however, he's been able to resume g
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Contact: James Cauraugh
jcaura@hhp.ufl.edu
352 392 0584 x1273
University of Florida
6-Jun-2002


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