In this article the researchers looked at mental practice and physical therapy. They had 2 groups: group#1 mentally practiced–imagined themselves performing functional activities (like brushing hair) for 4 hours everyday for 3 weeks with the aid of an audio recording for cuing and group 2 did 1 hour of the same mental practice everyday with an additional 3 hours of physically practicing functional tasks with the involved arm for 15 days.
Not too surprisingly to me, the mental practice + physical practice group showed better functional results in the end.
In sports training, this is used all the time. Why wouldn’t it work in neuro rehab too?
I really like that they used an audio recording to cue the participants on what to think about. Personally, when I’m at yoga and they just tell me to meditate, I think about everything but meditating. But if the instructor is guiding the meditation, then I’ll get something out of it. I can just imagine my patients falling asleep if they aren’t being cued. Some would probably fall asleep with the cues! But if they did it all the time, they’d get at least a little something out of it, I’d think.
We talked about this a few months ago in my hospital journal club. The nurses present were afraid that if we encouraged the patients to mentally practice a task, they’d actually do it, like for example, walking. Most the patients in my IRF are there because they can’t just get up and walk easily and not hurt themselves doing so. So the nurses were afraid the fall numbers would increase. What do you think?
Have you ever tried mental practice yourself or with your patients?