Masters student aims to translate proven stroke therapy method

Ashan Weerakoddy stands in a garden
Ashan Weeakkody
September 25, 2020

A gold-standard rehabilitation therapy for stroke patients isn’t widely used in WA, and Ashan Weerakkody wants that to change within his service.

As a community physiotherapist for eight years, Mr Weerakkody said he would not have believed how well and quickly the two-week program worked for people with mild to moderate impairment in one arm unless he had seen it himself.

Known as modified constraint-induced movement therapy, the method requires the patient to be motivated to use the arm that has been most affected after stroke and decide what tasks to do.

Patients need to agree, in partnership with their carer and therapist, to put their good arm in a mitt or sling for between two to six hours a day - a measure aimed at building up the affected arm to improve function.

Mr Weerakkody’s research, part of his Masters course at Edith Cowan University, aims to show how the proven and Stroke Foundation-endorsed therapy can be translated into practice.

Physiotherapists, occupational therapists, patients and carers within the Rehabilitation In the Home (RITH) program will be interviewed and invited to take part in focus groups.

RITH caters for stroke survivors who are medically fit to live at home, with some help from carers, but could benefit from rehabilitation.

“I used to see up to six patients in their homes a day and I saw the huge improvements that early, supported discharge services can make compared to recovery as an inpatient,” Mr Weerakkody said.

“Rehabilitation is all about allowing people to become more independent, so I want to prove that this method can work in real-life situations and increase the uptake.”

Mr Weerakkody said another motivation was to contribute to the body of allied health research.

“New research, including translational research like mine, plays a very important role in allied health to discourage complacency among practitioners about trying new things,” he said.

Read more about research conducted across South Metropolitan Health Service in its 2019 Research Report (external PDF 4.1MB).

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