Background. The mechanism and time course of increased wrist joint stiffness poststroke and clinically observed wrist flexion deformity is still not well understood. The components contributing to increased joint stiffness are of neural reflexive and peripheral tissue origin and quantified by reflexive torque and muscle slack length and stiffness coefficient parameters. Objective. To investigate the time course of the components contributing to wrist joint stiffness during the first 26 weeks poststroke in a group of patients, stratified by prognosis and functional recovery of the upper extremity. Methods. A total of 36 stroke patients were measured on 8 occasions within the first 26 weeks poststroke using ramp-and-hold rotations applied to the wrist joint by a robot manipulator. Neural reflexive and peripheral tissue components were estimated using an electromyography-driven antagonistic wrist model. Outcome was compared between groups cross-sectionally at 26 weeks poststroke and development over time was analyzed longitudinally. Results. At 26 weeks poststroke, patients with poor recovery (Action Research Arm Test [ARAT] ≤9 points) showed a higher predicted reflexive torque of the flexors (P <.001) and reduced predicted slack length (P <.001) indicating shortened muscles contributing to higher peripheral tissue stiffness (P <.001), compared with patients with good recovery (ARAT ≥10 points). Significant differences in peripheral tissue stiffness between groups could be identified around weeks 4 and 5; for neural reflexive stiffness, this was the case around week 12. Conclusions. We found onset of peripheral tissue stiffness to precede neural reflexive stiffness. Temporal identification of components contributing to joint stiffness after stroke may prompt longitudinal interventional studies to further evaluate and eventually prevent these phenomena.
de Gooijer-van de Groep, K. L., de Groot, J. H., van der Krogt, H., de Vlugt, E., Arendzen, J. H., & Meskers, C. G. M. (2018). Early Shortening of Wrist Flexor Muscles Coincides With Poor Recovery After Stroke. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 32(6-7), 645-654. https://doi.org/10.1177/1545968318779731