Stroke survivors talk while doing: Development of a therapeutic framework for continued rehabilitation of hand function post stroke

Rosanna C. Sabini, Marcel P.J.M. Dijkers, Preeti Raghavan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study design: Qualitative study to identify themes and explore mechanisms underlying recovery of hand function post stroke for individuals discharged from rehabilitation services. Purpose of the study: Post-stroke hemiparesis frequently results in persistent hand dysfunction; the mechanisms of functional recovery are however poorly understood. We assessed the perspectives of community-dwelling individuals with chronic stroke on their hand function limitations and recovery to explore the feasibility of developing a theoretical framework for understanding the process of continued post-stroke recovery. Methods: Eight subjects with chronic post-stroke hemiparesis were interviewed and videotaped while they performed a battery of 20 upper limb tasks. Qualitative analysis consisted of two investigators independently reviewing the videotapes and reading the transcribed conversations, identifying significant issues and then comparing their observations to determine common themes and develop emerging concepts. Results: Four core themes pertaining to impairment and recovery of task-specific ability emerged: 1) spasticity can be overcome actively through task-specific attempts to use the affected arm and hand; 2) use of the affected arm can be facilitated by adopting positions that reduce the effect of gravity on the arm or enable gravity to act as a natural assist in the movement; 3) task-specific skill can be attained by repeatedly attempting specific component movements of tasks in the context of a variety of different tasks; and 4) frustration impedes task performance but a mental state of 'detached focus' can improve the motivation to use the affected arm. Conclusions: These themes suggest a therapeutic framework for continued upper limb rehabilitation in patients' own environment to maximize functional recovery in individuals long after their stroke, and generate hypotheses which may lead to the development of new therapeutic protocols. Level of evidence: NA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-131
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hand Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • CVA
  • Qualitative research
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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