[Purpose] This study investigated the short-term effects of a combination therapy consisting of repetitive facilitative exercises and orthotic treatment.
[Subjects and Methods] The subjects were chronic post-stroke patients (n=27; 24 males and 3 females; 59.3 ± 12.4 years old; duration after onset: 35.7 ± 28.9 months) with limited mobility and motor function. Each subject received combination therapy consisting of repetitive facilitative exercises for the hemiplegic lower limb and gait training with an ankle-foot orthosis for 4 weeks. The Fugl-Meyer assessment of the lower extremity, the Stroke Impairment Assessment Set as a measure of motor performance, the Timed Up & Go test, and the 10-m walk test as a measure of functional ambulation were evaluated before and after the combination therapy intervention.
[Results] The findings of the Fugl-Meyer assessment, Stroke Impairment Assessment Set, Timed Up & Go test, and 10-m walk test significantly improved after the intervention. Moreover, the results of the 10-m walk test at a fast speed reached the minimal detectible change threshold (0.13 m/s).
[Conclusion] Short-term physiotherapy combining repetitive facilitative exercises and orthotic treatment may be more effective than the conventional neurofacilitation therapy, to improve the lower-limb motor performance and functional ambulation of chronic post-stroke patients.
The mobility of many stroke survivorsislimited, and most identify walking as a top priority for rehabilitation1) . One way to manage ambulatory difficulties is with an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) or a foot-drop splint, which aims to stabilize the foot and ankle while weight-bearing and lift the toes while stepping1) . In stroke rehabilitation, various approaches, including robotic assistance, strength training, and task-related/virtual reality techniques, have been shown to improve motor function2) . The benefits of a high intensity stroke rehabilitation program are well established, and although no clear guidelines exist regarding the best levels of intensity in practice, the need for its incorporation into a therapy program is widely acknowledged2) . Repetitive facilitative exercises (RFE), which combine a high repetition rate and neurofacilitation, are a recently developed approach to rehabilitation of stroke-related limb impairment2–5) . In the RFE program, therapists use muscle spindle stretching and skin-generated reflexes to assist the patient’s efforts to move an affected joint5) . Previous studies have shown that an RFE program improved lower-limb motor performance (Brunnstrom Recovery Stage, foot tapping, and lower-limb strength) and the 10-m walk test in patients with brain damage3) . An AFO is an assistive device to help stroke patients with hemiplegia walk and stand. A properly prescribed AFO can improve gait performance and control abnormal kinematics arising from coordination deficits6) . Gait training with an AFO has been also reported to improve gait speed and balance in post-stroke patients7, 8) . Therefore, we hypothesized that short-term physiotherapy combining RFE and orthotic treatment would improve both lower-extremity motor performance and functional ambulation. The present study aimed to confirm the efficacy of a combination therapy consisting of RFE for the hemiplegic lower limb and gait training with AFO.