Ways to get joints moving | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - June 2007

Ways to get joints moving

If a child has cerebral palsy it means that they are unable to control some of the muscles in their body in the normal way. They may not be able to walk, talk, eat or play in the same way as other children.This is due to restricted movement in the joints (contractures), the child being unable to bend or straighten them fully.

The main aim of treatment is to prevent or limit the contractures and limb deformities that can occur. Surgical correction, drugs and physiotherapy are treatment options but all have limitations. In this study, Professor John Patrick and his team at ORLAU, the Orthotic Research and Locomotor Assessment Unit at the Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, looked at a new way of increasing the movement in the joint by using the combined effects of heat and a specially designed stretching splint — a Contracture Correction Device (CCD). The CCD,which is relatively inexpensive, can be worn at home. Researchers found that treatment with the new splint prevented the usual deterioration in contractures and even reversed it.The addition of the heat pad, however, didn’t appear to make any difference to the outcome.

The use of the new splint has the potential to give patients a faster and more effective treatment that they can use at home. Following on from its success in patients with cerebral palsy, this treatment may be transferable to those suffering contractures from other conditions. It may benefit patients who have had strokes, burns or prolonged periods of immobility following an accident or operation; in addition it may also be effective in patients with arthritis.

The researchers therefore plan to carry out further work to see if similar benefits are observed in other patient groups. Grants towards the costs of this research programme were generously made by a number of Trusts and Foundations.

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