ATLANTA – For many stroke victims, partial paralysis makes everyday tasks like using a fork painful, but a new experimental therapy that works against the body's natural instincts is offering patients hope.
Three months after suffering a stroke on the job, Ted Augustus enrolled in Emory University's constraint-induced therapy program.
"My right side went totally numb," he said. "I couldn't move my leg or my arm."
As part of the therapy process, Augustus' "good" arm was constrained and wrapped up, forcing him to use his impaired arm only. By the time the constraints came off, there was noticeable improvement in his range of movement.
Doctors think the repetitive and required 'forced use' of the impaired limb may speed up recovery time.
"It takes almost an opposite approach to what is being done in most clinics today," said Dr. Steven Wolf of Emory's Department of Rehabilitation Medicine.
"What we are doing with this C.I. therapy, is simply unmasking new pathways between the brain and the arm and upper extremity."
When Augustus started the program, he found it difficult to grasp anything.
"I couldn't pick up a kernel of corn when I first started, but now — it takes concentration, but I can do it," he said.
He has seen such an improvement in the use of his impaired arm, in fact, that he's determined to play tennis again in the near future.
Dr. Wolf is optimistic about the possibilities too.
"Part of the emerging studies are geared to determining just how high we can raise the bar," he said.
In the meantime, Augustus revels in the triumph of his daily battles — feeding himself, pouring himself a drink, writing his name.
"It's the little things that matter, and the little things that make you want to reach for something higher," he said.