Local News

New Method Being Used To Help Stroke Patients Regain Control

Posted October 1, 2001 4:38 a.m. EDT

— The road to recovery after a stroke is long and frustrating. Patients who have problems using one hand usually use the other to compensate. While that sounds practical, it only makes the affected hand weaker, but a new method is helping stroke patients regain control.

Ruby Jones had a stroke nearly a year ago. After months of therapy, she still has trouble using her right hand, so she is taking part in a study at UNC that uses constraint therapy. Patients wear a mitt on their "good" hand for two weeks.

Therapists work with patients six hours a day doing everyday activities such as opening a lock or spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread. Dr. Carol Guiliani believes it helps to strengthen their affected hand.

"Well, we don't know exactly what's going on, but we restrain the good hand so it enforces them or encourages them to use their weak hand," she said.

The tasks are tailored to each patient's needs.

"If they have difficulty with coordination, strength or difficulty with range of motion, the tasks we choose are designed to work on those," Guiliani said.

Jones admits the new method can be tiring.

"At first, I said, 'I can't do that. I can't use that hand,' then I started trying," she said.

Each task is timed, so patients see their progress.

"We can tell them, 'Gee, it took you 20 seconds this last trial. The one before took you 35 seconds,' so we just keep giving them feedback and they can see that they're getting better," Guiliani said.

Right now, UNC is testing contraint therapy on patients who had a stroke three to six months ago. For more information, you can call