Chronic stroke patients are those who survive a stroke for more than 6 months. Studies show that 83% of people who have had a stroke will experience balance problems and 73% are likely to experience a fall. Current clinical practice guidelines from 2005 recommend balance training for people with poststroke balance impairment; however, no specific balance training recommendations are available.
Researchers from Roudebush Veteran’s Administration Medical Center and from the University of Indiana, both in Indianapolis, recruited 47 patients with chronic stroke for a small pilot study designed to assess the impact of a modified yoga program on poststroke conditions. The scientists developed an 8-week yoga-based rehabilitation intervention. Ten subjects served as the control group, and 37 participated in either group yoga or group yoga plus use of an at-home yoga and relaxation audio recording. A yoga therapist taught the classes twice weekly using a standardized protocol with input from stroke rehab specialists. Sessions included modified standing, seated and floor postures, relaxation and meditation. Instruction progressed in difficulty as participants’ skills improved.
Investigators collected data at baseline and at the end of the intervention. Assessments measured disability, balance, balance confidence, fear of falling and quality of life. Data analysis showed that balance improved significantly and fear of falling decreased significantly among all yoga group participants. Both quality of life and balance confidence trended toward significant improvement. Study authors noted that with a larger sample size, there would likely be a statistically significant improvement in balance self-efficacy.
Lead study author Arlene A. Schmid, PhD, a rehabilitation and research scientist from the Roudebush Veterans Medical Center and Indiana University, believes that group yoga could complement rehabilitation, would be possible in medical-based and community-based settings and would be cost-effective. More research is needed with a larger sample size.
The study is available in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke (2012; doi: 10.1161/STR OKEAHA.112.658211).