Motor function difficulties associated with unilateral spastic cerebral palsy (USCP) impact gait inter-limb coordination between the upper and lower extremities. Two motor learning based, upper extremity treatments, Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) and Hand Arm Bimanual Therapy (HABIT), have resulted in improvements in coordination and function between the arms in children with USCP. However, no study has investigated whether coordination between the upper and lower extremities improves after either intervention during a functional task, such as walking. Gait analysis was performed before and after participation in intensive (3 weeks, 90 h total) CIMT and HABIT interventions to determine if intensive upper extremity treatment can improve inter-limb coordination between the upper and lower extremities of children (n = 20, 6–17 years old) with USCP. While upper extremity clinical evaluations indicated hand function improvements, there were no changes in lower extremity parameters for either treatment. However, we found that 10 out of 11 children with a 2:1 arm swing-to-stride ratio at pre-test improved to a 1:1 ratio at post-test. Temporal synchronicity of contralateral limbs, swing displacement of the more affected arm, and arm swing side symmetry unexpectedly decreased. Positive changes in coordination were observed in children who demonstrated poor coordination during walking at pre-test, yet the changes were not robust. Principle component analysis did not indicate changes in limb coupling. While more coordinated, gross-motor training of the upper and lower extremity may reveal greater changes, lower extremity gait patterns were not improved in high functioning children with USCP.
Cerebral palsy Children Gait Coordination Intervention
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The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Victor Santamaria for his statistical advisement, Dr. Lily Hung for her assistance with data collection, and the children and families for their participation in the interventions.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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