Innovative treatment helping stroke survivors

Friday, 16 December 2016

Innovative treatment for stroke survivors

Targeted, specific, innovative, intensive, targeted, specific, innovative, intensive …

These words have been echoing around the Australian Catholic University (ACU) Health Clinic at Banyo for two weeks – as people who have experienced a stroke are put through their paces.

The Occupational Therapy Upper Limb Clinic is using Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) to help Brisbane locals to improve arm function following stroke.

ACU Senior Lecturer Dr Deirdre Cooke said CIMT is a treatment method used with adults who have had a stroke or brain injury and have weakness or reduced movement and control over their hand or arm.

“It involves wearing a mitt or splint on the person’s non-affected hand for up to six hours a day for two weeks and in that time completing a program of intensive and carefully chosen exercises using their stroke affected hand," she said.

“The aim is to force greater use of the affected hand with intensive exercise and blocking the use of their non-affected hand for long periods of time each day.”

Despite the high level of research evidence supporting this approach, it is not able to be offered in many hospital or rehabilitation facilities as it is both time and labour intensive to run.

“At ACU we are proud to provide this valuable service to the community and give a tremendous learning opportunity to third and fourth year Occupational Therapy (OT) students,” Dr Cooke said.

“We call it ‘boot camp’ because it is all about hard and concentrated effort for clients and the OT students who work with them for four hours per day for two weeks.

“Each client receives an individualised program based on their abilities and what functional or daily life skills they want to achieve. Occupational Therapy students complete a comprehensive assessment of each client before and after the boot camp so progress can be measured.

“It is a very rewarding to see the difference that can be made to a person’s life.”

Barb Hodkinson suffered a stroke 11 months ago and was in a wheelchair, she is now able to walk but still has limited use of her left arm.

“I feel really grateful that I have been given this opportunity. It is really special,” she said.

“When I came here I wanted to get something approaching normal movement and I have made some real progress.

“The difference between a good OT and a great OT is that they really care.

“ACU is doing a great job, all the students are really caring and that makes me think the OT profession is in good hands.”

People can benefit from CIMT months and sometimes even years after stroke; however they do have to have a small amount of movement in their wrist and fingers, and the ability to participate in an intensive exercise program to take part in the boot camp which ACU runs four times a year.

ACU Health Clinics provide a range of health services to the community. All clinical programs at ACU Health Clinics are delivered by student practitioners under the supervision of Professional Placement Educators who are experts in their field and experienced in working with students and clients in a clinical teaching context.

The ACU Health Clinic at Banyo has been specifically designed to provide state-of-the-art facilities for clients participating in health services in a student teaching context.

For more information on the clinic or to refer a client please phone 3623 7854 or email