Mental practice maintains range of motion despite forearm immobilization: A pilot study in healthy persons
Marie O. Frenkel, Daniela S. Herzig , Florian Gebhard , Jan Mayer , Clemens Becker, Thomas Einsiedel
Department of Sport Psychology, Institute of Sport and Sport Science, University of Heidelberg, 69 115 Heidelberg, Germany. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Objective: To determine whether mental practice of wrist movements during forearm immobilization maintains range of motion.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Participants: Eighteen healthy young men aged between 20 and 30 years were assigned to either a control or a mental practice group. Both groups were immobilized with a circular forearm cast for 3 weeks to simulate a distal radial fracture.
Methods: The mental practice group received 1 × 60-min, followed by 3 × 30-min, sessions of supervised mental practice. Consecutively, they were asked to perform 15 min/day of self-guided imagery sessions, during which they mentally exercised motion sequences of the immobilized joint. The training program followed the Mental Gait Training procedure. The control group did no training. Wrist movement was measured with a goniometer before and after immobilization.
Results: Mental practice preserved dorsal extension and ulnar abduction. The sedentary control group showed due to this variables a significant decrease after cast removal. There was no significant change in palmar flexion and radial abduction in either group.
Conclusion: Despite the study limitations, these results suggest that mental practice may be useful in preventing loss of hand function associated with mid-term immobilization. Because of the expected clinical benefits, the low cost and simple application of the intervention, the effects of mental practice in orthopedic rehabilitation of the upper extremity warrant further study.
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