Additional early active repetitive motor training did not prevent contracture in adults receiving task-specific upper limb training after stroke: a randomised trial

Sally Horsley, Natasha A. Lannin, Kathryn S. Hayward, Robert D. Herbert

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Question: In adults undergoing rehabilitation after stroke, does 1 hour of additional active repetitive reaching per day prevent or reduce upper limb contracture? Design: Multi-centre, randomised controlled trial with concealed allocation, assessor blinding, and intention-to-treat analysis. Participants: Fifty adults undergoing rehabilitation after stroke who were unable to actively extend the affected wrist past neutral or were unable to flex the affected shoulder to 90 deg. Setting: Three inpatient rehabilitation units in Australia. Intervention: Both groups received usual upper limb therapy 5 days a week for 5 weeks. In addition, the experimental group received up to 1 hour a day of active, intensive, repetitive upper limb training using the SMART Arm device 5 days a week for 5 weeks. Outcome measures: Measures were collected at baseline (Week 0), after intervention (Week 5) and at follow-up (Week 7). The primary outcomes were passive range of wrist extension, elbow extension, and shoulder flexion at Week 5. The secondary outcomes were: the three primary outcomes measured at Week 7; passive range of shoulder external rotation; arm function; and pain at rest, on movement and during sleep measured at Weeks 5 and 7. Results: Following an average of 2310 reaching repetitions, the mean effect at Week 5 on passive range of wrist extension was 1 deg (95% CI –6 to 8), elbow extension –6 deg (95% CI –12 to –1), and shoulder flexion 5 deg (95% CI –8 to 17). There were no statistically significant or clinically important effects of the intervention on any secondary outcomes. Conclusion: In adults who are already receiving task-specific motor training for upper limb rehabilitation following stroke, 5 weeks of up to 1 hour of additional daily active repetitive motor training using the SMART Arm device did not prevent or reduce contracture in upper limb muscles. Trial registration: ACTRN12614001162606.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-94
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physiotherapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Active motor training
  • Contracture
  • Randomised controlled trial
  • Stroke
  • Upper extremity

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