Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. However, millions of people who endure a stroke survive and are forced to live with associated disabilities. In particular, walking is often impaired and survivors lose their independence as a result. Currently, a variety of techniques are employed in rehabilitative therapy for post-stroke patients, but further research is needed. Recent research has shown that mental imagery is effective in regaining motor skills when it is combined with physical therapy. However, there is little research evaluating the effects of mental imagery on walking or, more specifically, the gait cycle. The purpose of this single subject design study was to analyze the effects of mental imagery with a sub-acute stroke patient on the ability to walk. Mental imagery was directed by an audiocassette tape asking the patient to relax and visualize himself walking in correct form. The subject's walking was assessed with a gait mat, which monitored his walking velocity, cadence, double limb support, step length, degrees of foot rotation, step time, and stride length. Gait mat data were collected 12 times prior to the treatment and 12 times during the treatment. The results of this study showed significant changes in walking velocity, bilateral double limb support, left step length, and left single leg stance (p < .05). It was hoped that these data would enable a better understanding of the effects of mental imagery combined with conventional physical therapy on walking rehabilitation in sub-acute stroke patients.
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