Friday, May 24, 2013

Bobath: The more you move, the worse you'll get

I've made my position on Bobath/NDT pretty clear (hint, I'm not a devotee). One of the many things Bobath was clearly wrong about was the effect of effort on spasticity. Bobath weirdly believed that using spastic muscles would increase spasticity. The way she put it in her book Adult Hemiplegia was, "Effort leads to an increase in spasticity." This is the way the thinking goes: Since movement poststroke requires effort, movement increases spasticity. Distilled, the philosophy was pretty clear: The more you move, the worse you'll get. Later in her book she doubled down on this concept. "The use of effort... will only reinforce the existing released tonic reflexes and, with it, increase spasticity."
 Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.  
(Here are the references...)
Note: CIT requires a lot of effort.
And it's more than just wrong, it obfuscates the issue for clinicians trying to find answers. I'm guessing, but at least 80% of all seminars for stroke recovery revolve around the Bobath/NDT. So clinicians learn it. And it wastes researcher's time, effort and funding. Because clinicians learn and believe it, researchers often have to go and "prove the negative." Researchers have successfully debunked the concept that effort increases spasticity. Because effort reestablishes cortical control over spastic muscles, spasticity is actually reduced. 

"This evidence is not compatible with the underlying assumptions of the Bobath approach." 
(From the 3rd article referenced, above) 

  ©Stronger After Stroke Blog 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Is walking right after stroke good?

I've been involved in stroke recovery research for a long time. And I do a lot of seminars on stroke recovery. A lot of clinicians that come to the seminars take this posture: Just tell me what the treatment options are and how to do them. This demand assumes that there are a lot of treatment options. It also assumes that those treatment options are "proven." And it assumes that things can be made simple and immediately clinically applicable.

Overall the posture suggests Dunning Kruger effect. The Dunning Kruger effect is simple and measurable:

1. The less you know about a subject, the more you estimate you know.
2. The more you know about a subject, the less you estimate you know.

The Dunning Kruger effect in action: You ask two people about galaxies; one is an astrophysicist, the other is a six-year-old. The astrophysicist says, "There so much more that we need to discover. We're not even sure how many there are." You ask a six-year-old and he says, "I know all about galaxies. There is a moon, and he goes up and down, and it squiggles, and then there's the Earth and the sun goes around and around and you can take a spaceship to it."

The Dunning Kruger effect in post stroke rehabilitation

We don't know much about what helps stroke survivors recover. There. I said it. That there is a lot of confusion about what helps stroke survivors recover does not sit well with rehabilitation clinicians. And one of the reasons it does not sit well is that there are a lot of folks that try to sell treatment options that are "proven." This mucks up the waters. Let's say you're a therapist looking for answers. Are you going to listen to the person who says "Well, we really don't know, we're not really sure, none of this is proven, but this is what we think..." or are you going to listen to the person who says, "I have this great thing that works and it's super fantastic and it works all the time." The folks who are real sure that their treatment option is the bees knees of stroke rehab are often out to sell something. Like a machine, or a "pay us to learn" technique. But those of us in the research game are more equivocal.

In other words, the thing that research does, which is discover things layer by layer in a slow plodding scientific process, is not very satisfying.

Let me give you an example. I got an e-mail recently from a therapist who had been to the seminar. This therapist asked a very specific question: "Is very early mobilization after stroke good or not?"

Mobilization means "Getting them up and walking." "Very early" is a designation that means within the first 24 hours of the first symptoms of stroke. Simple question, right? The answer should either be yes. Or it could be no.

Except it's neither. It's "We don't know." In the few studies that have been done on this subject (there are ongoing studies which might provide more clarity) the conclusion is, we don't know. On one hand, it is commonly believed that many problems early after stroke are caused by immobilization. Problems caused by lack of early movement/walking include infections (especially in the lungs) and blood clots breaking off and causing all kinds of vascular problems. Further, getting somebody up and walking after stroke, especially in animal experiments, seems to help promote brain plasticity.

The problem is that the brain is very vulnerable after stroke. And one of the things it's vulnerable to is decreased blood flow. And when somebody is in an upright position is decreased blood flow to the brain. 

A quick review of lit...
There. Does that clear things up?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Exercise helps recovery because it strengthens what?

Interesting video, below, by one of my favorite neuroscientists, Dale Corbett.  For the record: There is no one I know up doing a better job of translating what neuroscientists have to offer to stroke recovery. Have a watch. The insights really start at 1:40 in. I'll post my critique below the video.  
The overall message is important. Exercise is essential. It is unfortunate that the message is sort of convoluted in this video. They're talking first about TIA, and how if you have a TIA you should use exercise as a way to lessen the chance of a full-blown stroke. Then the discussion takes an obtuse tangent into how exercise is important to recovery, and then with no real explanation doubles back to talking about TIA again. Still, while maybe the messages should have been separated, both are important. 

1:50 Another person, besides Corbett, whose interviewed in this video is William Mcillroy, who like Corbett is a PhD. I quibble a bit with Mcillroy's statement that exercise can be started " short as two weeks after stroke." Charitably, this is highly debatable. Once a patient is medically stable, intensity should be increased to tolerance. There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for every survivor that is rigid enough to predict that someone can start exercise "as short as two weeks after stroke." In fact, it could be much shorter. For instance, in a survivor who is medically stable day 4, waiting another 10 days to start a progressively rigorous exercise program would allow learned nonuse to take hold. 

2:20 Both PhD's talk about how exercise is good for the brain. Corbett talks about how exercise helps cognition, and points out exercise also helps sensory motor recovery. I would remind anyone who is willing to listen: sensation and motor behavior are cognitive. We learn sensation and movement the same way we learn French, or trumpet, or algebra. That is, changes in motor and sensory behavior happen involve the same brain processes as any other kind of learning.

2:50 I'm not sure that there should be such an unequivocal endorsement of balance retraining using biofeedback. Certainly the research is not there yet. 

Having said all that, I think this is a really great video with some really essential points. Interviews can be misrepresented because the person being interviewed is not doing the editing. The points these guys were making may have been a ton more cogent in the original interviews. 

The best line is by Dr. Corbett: 

 "It's still early days and you know we're nowhere near to the level that I think we can get to. And if we can understand what the mechanisms are then we might be able to optimally better design exercise programs to improve stroke recovery." 

"Until then, anyone trying to sell you certainty is after your wallet," he didn't add.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Try: to attempt to do or accomplish

Here is clarification of a paragraph in the previous post:

Of course, there's a fine line between the exercise and movement needed to relearn movement. But the emphasis on trying to build muscle is as mistaken as changing the oil in a car with no gas: Its a good thing, but hardly the main issue.

This difference between exercise and repetitive practice (movement needed to relearn movement) may seem like a distinction without a difference. In fact, both build muscle and both drive plastic changes in the brain. The distinction is in the focus. Repetitive practice paradigms focus on driving changes in the motor and sensory cortices of the brain, not specifically in changes in muscle strength. Sure, muscles will build. But focusing on strengthening is like climbing a ladder to the top only to find the ladder is leaning against the wrong building. Stroke is brain damage. And, unlike most other forms of acquired brain injury, stroke involves just one part of the brain. So if a survivor is, say, 2 years post-stroke and they can’t open their hand and then, later they can, that is not a reflection of muscular strength. It is a clear indication of a change in the brain. The muscles have been there all along. Muscle strengthening is the easy part. 

Clinicians often sweat the fact that survivors have limited energy for therapy. But does it need to be very strenuous to be beneficial? No! The ability to open the hand (or lift the foot or straighten the elbow or move the mouth) can be done while sitting in a comfy chair. Each attempt should be focused and deliberate. The very ends of the movement should be the point of focus. Each attest is measured as a success if it is just beyond the previous attempt.

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