Short-term effects of thermotherapy for spasticity on tibial nerve F-waves in post-stroke patients
Thermotherapy is generally considered appropriate for post-stroke patients with spasticity, yet its acute antispastic effects have not been comprehensively investigated. F-wave parameters have been used to demonstrate changes in motor neuron excitability in spasticity and pharmacological antispastic therapy. The present study aimed to confirm the efficacy of thermotherapy for spasticity by evaluating alterations in F-wave parameters in ten male post-stroke patients with spastic hemiparesis (mean age: 49.0+/-15.0 years) and ten healthy male controls (mean age: 48.7+/-4.4 years). The subjects were immersed in water at 41 degrees C for 10 min. Recordings were made over the abductor hallucis muscle, and antidromic stimulation was performed on the tibial nerve at the ankle. Twenty F-waves were recorded before, immediately after, and 30 min following thermotherapy for each subject. F-wave amplitude and F-wave/M-response ratio were determined. Changes in body temperature and surface-skin temperature were monitored simultaneously. The mean and maximum values of both F-wave parameters were higher on the affected side before thermotherapy. In the post-stroke patients, the mean and maximum values of both parameters were significantly reduced after thermotherapy (P<0.01). Hence, the antispastic effects of thermotherapy were indicated by decreased F-wave parameters. Body temperature was significantly increased both immediately after and 30 min after thermotherapy in all subjects. This appeared to play an important role in decreased spasticity. Surface-skin temperature increased immediately after thermotherapy in both groups and returned to baseline 30 min later. These findings demonstrate that thermotherapy is an effective nonpharmacological antispastic treatment that might facilitate stroke rehabilitation.