ObjectiveTo Investigate the synergic effects of short-term constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) and visual biofeedback training (VBT) in subacute stroke patients.
MethodsThirty-two subacute stroke patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to one of three groups: short-term CIMT with VBT, VBT only, and control groups. We applied CIMT for an hour daily during VBT instead of the ordinary restraint time, referred to as ‘short-term’ CIMT. Short-term CIMT with VBT group received simultaneous VBT with CIMT, whereas the VBT the only group received VBT without CIMT for an hour a day for 2 weeks. The control group received conventional occupational therapy (OT) alone. Patients underwent the Purdue Pegboard Test, the JAMAR grip strength test, the Wolf Motor Function Test, the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (upper extremity), Motricity index and the Korean version of Modified Barthel Index test to evaluate motor functions of the hemiplegic upper limb at baseline, post-treatment, and 2 weeks after treatment.
ResultsNo significant differences were observed between short-term CIMT with VBT and VBT only groups. Both groups showed significantly higher scores compared to the control group in the WMFT and FMA tests. However, the short-term CIMT with VBT group showed significant improvement (p<0.05) compared with the control group in both grasp and pad pinch at post-treatment and 2 weeks after treatment while the VBT only group did not.
Short-term CIMT with VBT group did not show significant improvement of hemiplegic upper limb function of subacute stroke patients, compared to VBT only group. Larger sample sizes and different restraint times would be needed to clarify the effect.
Most stroke survivors have upper limb motor impairments, along with difficulties in performing activities of daily living . Currently, there are several known intervention treatments for functional recovery of the upper limb after stroke.
Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) has been shown to enhance hemiplegic upper limb functions at both early and late stages of post-stroke . The test was developed by Taub et al.  to improve the function of the affected upper limb by limiting the motion of the intact upper limb and induce affected upper limb movement [4, 5]. The original CIMT program consisted of 2 weeks of restraining the unaffected upper limb for 90% of waking hours combined with forced use of the affected upper limb for approximately 6 hours per day during task-oriented activities. However, Page et al.  reported that 68% of 208 stroke patients said that they were disinterested in participating in CIMT. One domestic research study showed that 12 out of 46 patients dropped out when they participated in CIMT lasting for 14 hours daily for 2 weeks. The most common reason for dropping out in this study was the lack of participation in training time . Therefore, in a clinical setting, various modified CIMT methods have been developed to improve participation rates.
Recently visual biofeedback training (VBT) has been studied and introduced as a therapeutic option because VBT might improve motor performance by effectively tuning the control structure . Also, Kim et al.  reported a significant effect of spatial target reaching training based on visual biofeedback of the upper limb function in hemiplegic subjects. In their previous article, VBT group showed more significant improvement than the control group in the Wolf Motor Function Test (WMFT) and the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA).
Several other studies have also been developed that recognize the effect of CIMT combined with other treatments [10, 11, 12]. In these trials, unaffected upper limbs were restrained for several hours daily, even when participants were not taking other combined therapies. However, it is not easy to apply restraint for more than 5 to 6 hours daily in a clinical setting and longer restraint times can compromise a patient’s therapeutic compliance. To overcome these limitations, it is necessary to find out whether there is any modified therapies have any effects such as a reduced restraint time in CIMT during combined therapy.
In this study, we applied a new CIMT protocol in a clinical setting, while maintaining the existing concept of CIMT. Both CIMT and VBT were performed simultaneously for 1 hour daily for 2 weeks. CMT is hereafter referred to as ‘short-term’ CIMT. We examined the effects of short-term CIMT combined with VBT on gross and fine motor functions and daily functions in patients with subacute hemiplegic strokes. We hypothesized that study participant who received short-term CIMT with VBT would demonstrate more improved outcomes than patients who received VBT alone.
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Fig. 3. The patient with right hemiparesis received ‘behavior simulation.’ The patient held a disc grip by finger flexors. (A) The patient tried to put the spoon in the bowl by forearm pronation. (B) On the other hand, the patient was required to supinate his forearm for getting the spoon to the mouth. There were three patients with left hemiparesis. (C) One received short-term CIMT and VBT simultaneously. (D) Another patient received only VBT. (E) Both patients participated in the catch balls’ game. The other patient received conventional occupational therapy. CIMT, constraint-induced movement therapy; VBT, visual biofeedback training.