For people who have had a stroke and are unable to walk at the outset of treatment, treadmill training is not likely to aid their progress toward walking independently—but for patients with stroke who are ambulatory, the intervention may significantly improve endurance and speed. These were the broad conclusions reached in a recent review of 44 trials and 2,658 participants.
The research, to be published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (abstract only available for free at this time), focused on "randomized or quasi-randomized controlled and crossover trials of treadmill training and body weight support, individually or in combinations, for the treatment of walking after stroke." Authors focused on outcomes related to walking speed, endurance, and dependency.
"Overall, the use of treadmill training with body weight support did not increase the chances of walking independently compared with other physiotherapy interventions," the researchers wrote. Still, while results were at best mixed for patients with stroke unable to walk, authors noted that those who could walk "appear to benefit most from this type of intervention" and that "improvements in walking endurance in people able to walk may have persisting beneficial effects."
APTA's PTNow can put you in touch with evidence-based practice resources, including information on interventions related to stroke. The association's consumer guide to stroke is available on APTA's MoveForwardPT.com website.
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