Rehabilitation from a stroke usually involves a team of physical and occupational therapists that will provide a variety of exercises and techniques in order to achieve the primary goals of muscle control and spasticity reduction.
Stretching is one technique aimed at reducing spasticity. These stretches generally follow the guidelines of moving the arm through its full range of motion at least three times a day; gently stretching tighter muscles to a point of slight discomfort, and holding the stretch for at least 60 seconds.
Repeated usage of the arm to complete tasks is the most effective means of recovery after a stroke. Activities for these include putting fingers around a handle and opening and closing the door or drawer; holding a bag with a lightweight and carrying it around; pulling laundry out of a dryer and carrying it around; squeezing a tube of toothpaste; flipping a switch on and off; and more.
Additional rehabilitation techniques include arm-strengthening exercises such as lifting small weights and using resistance bands can help reduce spasticity.
Beyond this, technology can be used for rehab and recovery as well. These techniques include active-passive bilateral therapy, the use of robotic devices, functional electrical stimulation, and brain simulation.
As discussion with the Battelle team about the NeuroLife sleeve continues, there’s an emerging insight into how the sleeve form interacts and lives within the context of these different stretching and exercise techniques. Since the current functional prototype has various components and wires which may limit movement, investigating what is the best means of how the form of this sleeve can work in conjunction with current rehabilitation exercises will prove meaningful in stroke recovery for individuals.
For example, with the current prototype, there are large cables and a heavy bulk at the top of the arm which directly hinders any stretching exercise calling for full arm movement and stretching. Even if the power and processing units are miniaturized and are worn on the chest or back, they may hinder certain activities or limit the amount of rehab time for a patient as they need to carry around a heavier weight. At the same time, if the sleeve is stationary, the range of exercises and simulation that the arm and hand need to undergo for rehab is diminished, which will impact how the individual recovers.