UAB Medicine

Constraint Induced Movement Therapy: Why It Works

How has CI Therapy changed thinking toward rehabilitation?
Some patients have been told they will be impaired or disabled for the rest of their lives. Past research has even suggested that patients reach their maximum level of possible rehabilitation one year after the stroke or injury. However, Dr. Taub’s groundbreaking research on CI therapy gives patients hope that they can improve the use of their limbs, no matter how long ago the stroke or brain injury occurred. Taub Therapy Clinic offers patients the opportunity and support to accomplish their goals.

What happens when the brain is damaged following a stroke?
During a stroke, the brain is damaged by a lack of blood flow to it, and the area surrounding the damage swells. During the initial weeks of healing, a strong tendency not to use the affected limb, called learned non-use, develops in the areas of the body controlled by the damaged portion of the brain. Because the affected limb is weak and difficult to control, the patient relies on the unaffected limb. However, as the brain heals and swelling decreases, the neurons immediately surrounding the damaged neurons are “recruited” for other functions. In essence, this illustrates the concept of “use it or lose it”. When the limb associated with those neurons isn’t used, the neurons are recruited by the brain for other functions.

How does CI Therapy work? 
CI Therapy works because it helps patients overcome the learned non-use that develops in the early post-stroke or post-injury period. CI Therapy has been shown to rewire the brain; after therapy, a larger part of the brain is involved in producing movement of the weaker limb than before therapy.