Upper Limb Rehabilitation in People With Multiple Sclerosis

Background. There has been an increasing research interest in upper limb rehabilitation in multiple sclerosis (MS). The current changes in the research field inquire a new literature review. Objective. This systematic review aimed to provide an overview of the upper limb rehabilitation strategies in people with MS (PwMS). Methods. Articles published in PubMed and Web of Knowledge were selected when written in English, published in the past 25 years, peer reviewed, that included at least 5 PwMS, and described the effects of an intervention study including rehabilitation strategies targeting the upper limbs. Included articles were screened based on title/abstract and full text by 2 independent reviewers. Results. Thirty articles met the criteria and were included for data extraction. Only half of the included studies investigated the effects of a training program specially targeted toward the upper limbs, while in the other studies, a general whole body therapy was used. The therapy content and dosage varied greatly between the different included studies. Multidisciplinary and robot-based rehabilitation were the most investigated rehabilitation strategies and showed to improve upper limb capacity. Strength and endurance training improved the upper limb body functions and structures but did not influence the upper limb capacity and performance. Conclusions. The results of this systematic review indicated that different types of upper limb rehabilitation strategies can improve upper limb function in PwMS. Further research is necessary to compare directly the effects of different rehabilitation strategies and to investigate the optimal therapy dosage according to the upper limb disability level.

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