Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail

I got an email from an author the other day. He’s written a book about stroke recovery. He said that he’d heard that I did “...not like presenting other peoples' work as helpful for stroke survivors." I explained to him my position this way:

I work in rehab research; have since the 90's. All of that research has been stroke-specific. One of the things I've learned is that clinicians had made the mistake over and over and over (for decades) of buying into completely ineffective treatment options. They did this for 2 reasons:

1. The treatment had/has a charismatic leader
2. Clinicians in rehab don't typically read research.

So even if large studies came out and say "Those things don't work" clinicians just kept/keep on doing (and promoting, and selling books about, and teaching) them. And then there are categories of "treatments" that have no research (standardized, controlled trials) at all supporting them. So in my talks (I do many) I start by saying "Most of what has been used for stroke recovery is ineffective or untested. Here's what we think we know…” And most clinitians get it. They're pros. They want better tools.

I actually promote (when appropriate) a bunch of people and ideas. But anything endorsed is evidenced based and what that means is very specific: Has the treatment option reached meta-analysis and did that meta-analysis show efficacy? If it has and it does I'm all in.

If not, I let people know.

What I find from survivors is that they want us to hash this stuff out. They want us to have these discussions and not just stick with the same old because it’s what we feel comfortable.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

E-Stim. If dude can do it, so can you.

(EZ directions for doing electrical stimulation after stroke can be found here)

Electrical stimulation (e-stim) after stroke is the single most important modality there is for recovery. A modality is...application of something therapeutic like a hot pack or cold gel or...e-stim. Part of the reason e-stim is so important is that it does so many different things. 

Drunk smoking guys 

use e-stim for fun!

But here's some funny: Some OTs (occupational therapists) cannot do e-stim clinically. Why? It turns out that—in some States—OTs have to get a special post-secondary education certification to do it. Which was always weird to me. You know that ad where you can use the stim "ab-exerciser" that’s supposed to give you ripped abs while you lounge around because the e-stim builds muscle? And who’s ordering that? Some drunk guy at 2 in the morning. HE can do it, but OTs can't? 

E-stim does so much that its lack of use clinically for survivors has flummoxed me for years. The reasons given for not doing it clinically tend to be of the Its too complex to set up variety. 
Jesse says: 
E-stim is not just for 
drunk folks and kids!

Enter my 10 year old son, Jesse. I have a lot of e-stim machines stored in my basement. I've accumulated them over time in various ways. And boys will be boys, and boys (and their friends) will go into the basement and put electrodes all over themselves and turn up the stim and see what pops. And they figure the machine out. Because e-stim works like this: Put on the electrodes (they stick to your skin) and turn up the stim. And see what happens. And that’s it.

And yet many clinicians shy away from e-stim. They shy away from something that can do everything from help recovery of sensation, to stretching to building muscle to starting the neuroplastic process. So talk to 'em. And if they have any questions, tell 'em to email me.

Note: There are some serious contraindications to doing estim in some folks. i.e., they can mess up pacemakers and other electronic devices. So always ask your doc first!

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