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Ultrasound Med Biol. 2016 Aug;42(8):1862-75. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2016.03.006. Epub 2016 Apr 25.

The Effect of Radial Extracorporeal Shock Wave Stimulation on Upper Limb Spasticity in Chronic Stroke Patients: A Single-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study.

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Department of Nervous System Diseases, Medical University in Wroclaw, Wroclaw, Poland. Electronic address:
Department of Physiotherapy Basics, Academy of Physical Education in Katowice, Katowice, Poland.
Department of Nervous System Diseases, Medical University in Wroclaw, Wroclaw, Poland.


The main purpose of this study was to determine the clinical, electrophysiological and thermal effects of radial extracorporeal shock wave (rESW) stimulation on upper limb muscles affected by spasticity in patients with chronic stroke. Patients included in the study were randomly assigned into the following two groups: 30 patients stimulated with active rESW (A); and 30 patients stimulated with placebo rESW (B). All patients were analyzed using the Modified Ashworth Scale (MAS) to test the spasticity levels of the elbow (E), radio carpal (RC) and fingers (FF) joints; surface electromyography (sEMG) was performed for the resting bioelectrical activity registration of the flexor carpi radialis (FCR) and flexor carpi ulnaris (FCU) muscles; and infrared thermal imaging (IRT) was used to assess the temperature distributions of the carpal flexor muscles (CFM). All assessments were performed at baseline (t0), immediately after rESW (t1) as well as 1 and 24 h following its finalization (t2 and t3). Patients treated with active rESW showed a statistically significant reduction in the MAS score for the RC joint at t1 and for the FF joints at t1, t2 and t3 (p < 0.05). A significant decrease in sEMG activity was observed in the FCR and FCU muscles at t1, t2 and t3 (p < 0.05); significant increases in the mean and maximum values of the IRT detection was observed using inter-group comparisons in t2 and t3 (p < 0.05). No significant alterations were observed in patients after placebo rESW stimulation (p > 0.05). Applications of rESW demonstrating positive effects at reducing the level of spastic hypertonia of the upper limb muscles in patients with chronic stroke. ESW treatments should be considered as a potential anti-spastic effect to regulate vasculature.


Chronic stroke; Clinical assessment; Electrophysiological examination; Infrared thermography; Modified Ashworth Scale; Radial extracorporeal shock wave; Surface electromyography; Trophic conditions; Upper limb spasticity

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