Abstract — Individuals with chronic stroke have limited options for hand rehabilitation at home. Here, we sought to determine the feasibility and efficacy of home-based MusicGlove therapy. Seventeen participants with moderate hand impairment in the chronic phase of stroke were randomized to 3 wk of home-based exercise with either the MusicGlove or conventional tabletop exercises. The primary outcome measure was the change in the Box and Blocks test score from baseline to 1 mo post treatment. Both groups significantly improved their Box and Blocks test score, but no significant difference was found between groups. The MusicGlove group did exhibit significantly greater improvements than the conventional exercise group in Motor Activity Log Quality of Movement and Amount of Use scores 1 mo posttherapy (p = 0.007 and p = 0.04, respectively). Participants significantly increased their use of MusicGlove over time, completing 466 gripping movements per day on average at study end. MusicGlove therapy was not superior to conventional tabletop exercises for the primary end point but was nevertheless feasible and led to a significantly greater increase in self-reported functional use and quality of movement of the impaired hand than conventional home exercises.
Hand impairment after stroke contributes substantially to disability in the United States and around the world . Intensive movement practice can reduce hand impairment [2–6], but issues such as cost and access may limit the dose of rehabilitation exercise delivered one-on-one with a therapist. Because of these and other factors, most individuals do not perform the large number of exercise repetitions required during therapy to maximize recovery [7–8]. Home-based rehabilitation programs may be prescribed after stroke with the intent to increase the amount of rehabilitation exercise individuals perform. However, the most common approach to home-based hand therapy is following a printed handout of exercises. This approach is often not motivating and thus is associated with low compliance and high dropout rates [9–13].
To address this problem, other types of home-based rehabilitation programs for the hand have been proposed. For example, one pilot study explored a modified form of constraint-induced movement therapy performed under the supervision of a nonprofessional coach in the home and found similar benefits to the same program performed with a trained therapist in a clinic ; a larger study using this protocol found that home-based constraint-induced movement therapy led to significantly greater self-reported use of the impaired limb than conventional therapy . Another common approach is telerehabilitation, which allows a therapist to guide therapy remotely . While this approach is gaining popularity, a recent Cochrane systematic review of 10 trials with 933 total participants found limited evidence to support its use and no studies that examined its cost-effectiveness . Other approaches to home-based hand rehabilitation include functional electrical stimulation , computer gaming with custom devices [19–21], and music-based therapy . However, despite the variety of options, few home-based programs have been tested in controlled studies . Further, it is still unclear which methods are the most effective and efficient means of providing an increased dose of rehabilitation, though the use of computer games and music has been found to be highly motivating [20,24–26].
We developed the MusicGlove, an instrumented glove with sensors on each of the fingertips and the lateral aspect of the index finger. The MusicGlove requires the user to practice functional gripping movements by touching the sensor on the tip of the thumb to one of the other five sensors in time with music through a video game that displays scrolling notes on a screen (Figure 1). In previous pilot studies performed in a clinical setting, we found that the MusicGlove motivated individuals with chronic stroke to perform hundreds of functional gripping movements during a 30 min training session and that exercise with the device led to a significantly greater improvement in hand grasping ability, measured with the Box and Blocks test, than a time-matched dose of conventional tabletop therapy performed with a rehabilitation therapist [27–28]. The individuals who used the MusicGlove also reported that the exercise was more motivating than conventional therapy and expressed interest in using the device to exercise at home. An important question, therefore, was whether self-guided exercise with the MusicGlove performed at home is feasible and improves hand function compared with conventional home therapy.