Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT)

Patient getting CMIT therapyConstraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) is a therapeutic rehabilitation technique designed to teach the brain to “rewire” itself following a neurological injury such as stroke, brain injury and multiple sclerosis.

Frequently, following an event in which one side of the body is affected and becomes weak, use of that extremity is significantly diminished. The person compensates for this deficit, and therefore does not use his or her affected limb to its capability. This is called “learned non-use.”

The goal of CIMT is to prevent and reverse learned non-use by increasing the amount that limb is used for functional tasks and in everyday life. CIMT also improves the quality of movement in that affected limb.

How Does CIMT Work?

CIMT forces the use of the limb affected by the neurological injury by restraining the unaffected limb. For example, if a stroke affected your left arm, a mitt would be placed on your right arm to force you  to use your affected arm repetitively and intensely over a period of several weeks. Studies have shown that traditional constraint induced movement therapy demonstrated marked change in the functional use of the affected arm and maintained that significant change for over two years. Functional MRI studies also have shown an alteration in brain organization or function associated with a therapy-induced improvement in the rehabilitation of movement after neurological injury in humans.

Modified Constraint Induced Therapy Involves:

  • Occupational therapy three days per week for several weeks and includes specific and repetitive practice with the involved limb, while restraining the uninvolved limb.
  • Wearing the restraining mitt for a goal of 90 percent of waking hours.
  • Specific times and safety concerns are addressed on an individual basis with the therapist.
  • Participants must have a certain amount of motion in the involved extremity to participate in this program. This will be determined by the occupational therapist.