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Product Review: Tailwind for training weak arms after stroke.

Chronic arm weakness and hemiparesis is a leading cause of functional disability after stroke. It can limit the ability to dress, shower, groom and eat independently.  At the clinic, we have been investigating ways to increase the amount of upper limb therapy people are doing by providing independent training programs at home. We came across the Tailwind, and have been trialling it at the clinic for the past two weeks.

The Tailwind was developed by researchers at the University of Maryland Medical School and has recently been launched in Australia. We wanted to see if it could be used to increase the total amount of training for people who have suffered a stroke as part of a home based program. In addition to studying the effects on strength and increased activity in stroke survivors, much of the literature has also looked at the Tailwind’s application to rehab in people with traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, and other brain injuries

The Tailwind was developed to “provide the bilateral arm movement and repetition needed to realize arm recovery and improvement”. Seated at a table, the user moves two handles along resistance-free tracks, to the rhythm of an auditory cue. After repeated exercise sessions, the user will be able to move his affected arm farther and farther out along the track. The Tailwind utilizes a "sound-to-brain" neural pathway retraining method to improve strength and overall activity.

Some of the positive features of the device include the easy installation and set-up. It is easy to manipulate the ‘arms’ to change the angle and resistance of arm movement, as well as the target distance.  With the right set-up, the device is a neat way to increase exercise in the affected arm.

Getting the right set-up proved to be difficult however in six of the eight people we trialled the device on. The T handles are appropriate for someone with good grip strength, but very awkward for someone with minimal grip or wrist strength. In most cases we needed to strap hands around the handles, sometimes with additional wrist braces. This reduces the capacity for independent training at home, especially when we are looking at equipment that can help people with a very weak arm.

Overall, we are grateful to Orthocare for the opportunity to trial the device and suggest that it would be best used by stroke survivors with good grip strength and who are wanting to target shoulder strengthening.

Categories: Product Review

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