5 October 2001
A team of researchers is investigating whether early and extra exercise may help patients recover more quickly from devastating strokes, says a leading medical charity.
Action Research, which is dedicated to overcoming disease and disability, is ploughing almost £20,000 into a new study designed to help improve stroke rehabilitation.
Director of Campaigns and Communications John Grounds says: ‘Strokes can shatter the lives of not only patients but their families too. Action Research is making an important investment to further research in this field, which could improve the level of care they receive.’
In the UK, about 100,000 people a year suffer their first stroke - of whom a third develop severe disability because of weakness in their arms and legs. A total of 300,000 people are living with the affects of stroke at any one time.
Research physiotherapist Tudor Smith, is a member of the Stroke Team for Audit and Research at the Department of Medicine for the Elderly, at Liverpool’s University Hospital Aintree. He explains there is emerging evidence that additional early exercise training, alongside traditional physiotherapy may be beneficial. But it hasn’t been investigated thoroughly.
Mr Smith, who will work alongside other members of the Stroke Team, adds: ‘New and easy exercises, which can be done independently between therapy sessions, could directly strengthen arms and legs, and may help people recover more quickly.
‘Patients who have suffered a stroke often feel they would like to start therapy as soon as they can, and the ultimate aim of this work is to improve stroke rehabilitation.’
The eight-month pilot study, which is hoped to lead to clinical trials, will involve 60 patients split into two groups. Both groups will receive traditional physiotherapy, with the second group receiving additional exercise training.
Patients in the latter will be individually taught a series of basic exercise activities for the arms and legs which can be done lying, sitting, or standing.
The exercises will need to be performed for up to 30 minutes, three times per week, and once confident with the movements, the patients can continue their rehabilitation via a prompt-sheet or audio cassette.
The study involves an established team of researchers who are applying new rehabilitation techniques. This team have already done extensive work on the reliability of relevant outcome measures.
The project will be a collaboration between the School of Nursing at the University of Manchester and the Stroke Research Team at University Hospital Aintree.
Mr Smith says: ‘Patients often report physiotherapy after stroke to be beneficial but feel that they do not receive enough. Therefore, whilst physio is manpower intensive and time limited, early exercise training could be performed at any time by the patient with or without assistance from staff or carers whilst on the ward.
‘This can have the additional benefit of empowering the patient to take control of their own rehabilitation, which may positively influence their expectations of recovery. Furthermore, exercise can involve group participation with associated social and psychological advantages.’
Locally, the numbers of people who might benefit from an intervention programme could be as many as five per week, says Mr Smith, which could translate into tens of thousands per year nationally.
Fact-file: *Every year 10,000 people under the age of 55 have a stroke *When a stroke occurs part of the brain is suddenly severely damaged or destroyed. *It takes place either when a blood clot forms in a damaged vessel and blocks the flow of blood to the brain, or when a damaged vessel in the brain bursts. *Stroke is the third commonest cause of mortality, but the commonest cause of severe disability.
Action Research is dedicated to helping overcome disease and disability for children, families and the elderly across the UK. The charity’s Touching Lives Campaign aims to raise £2m for vital medical research and more details can be found at www.action.org.uk
For further information and interviews, please contact Nicole Duckworth in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403 Fax: 01403 210541, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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