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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

High-Dose Movement Therapy Produces Lasting Benefits for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Children with hemiparetic cerebral palsy, a movement disorder that affects use of one side of the body, showed improved use of the arm and hand after receiving a high dose of Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) in a recent clinical trial. 

The study, published in Pediatrics, suggests the more intensive level of CIMT—3-hour sessions, 5 days a week for 4 weeks—produced the most noticeable and longer lasting improvements. A moderate dose—2.5-hour sessions, 3 days a week for 4 weeks—did not produce gains significantly greater than the control group, which received a standard combination of physical and occupational therapy.

CIMT involves restricting the better functioning arm and hand with a splint or cast while a trained therapist engages the child in activities that reinforce and shape the movement and functional skills in the impaired arm and hand. While CIMT is widely accepted as more effective than conventional forms of physical and occupational therapy, little was known about effects of different doses of CIMT or whether constraints should be used only during the sessions or continuously throughout treatment. 

During this NICHD-funded study, 118 children ages 2 to 8 years old with cerebral palsy were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatment groups—30 or 60 total hours of CIMT combined with either a splint or a cast—or to the control group.

Children who received the high dose of 60 hours of CIMT using either constraint had the greatest improvements on a variety of upper extremity skills, such as grasping, moving, manipulating objects and self-care activities, as evaluated after treatment and 6 months later. However, the research team noted that children in the control group also improved more than expected. The authors think this may have resulted from a higher-than-normal dose of conventional therapy, lasting 4 to 5 hours per week. More research is needed to evaluate these differences and long-term benefits of CIMT.

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