My hand was completely flaccid for three month after my stroke. I did not get motion back until I started using an electrical stimulation device called NeuroMove. Electrical stimulation strengthens muscles, but NeuroMove also has a biofeedback component. I was able to watch a line on a monitor creep higher and higher as I thought about moving my hand. That immediate feedback kept me focused and working hard even when I did not see movement. When my muscle activity finally got above the threshold line, I got a few seconds of stimulation and was rewarded with a visible hand motion. However, NeuroMove would not help me until I made a sincere attempt to recruit the muscles that open my hand. Equally important, NeuroMove would not repeat the stimulation until I completely relaxed the muscles I just used. Muscle re-education after a stroke includes learning to recruit AND relax muscles.
I tried other electrical stimulation devices that do not have a biofeedback component. They stimulated my muscles at pre-set intervals or when I pushed a button. I could not coordinate my efforts with those devices. In the beginning it took me 20 seconds to figure out how to recruit a muscle and another 20 seconds to make that muscle relax. NeuroMove patiently waited for me. The other machines zapped me whether I was ready or not. It was like trying to dance with a really bad partner who kept jerking me around the dance floor. I finally gave up trying and daydreamed while devices without a biofeedback component worked my muscles.
I could feel my hand when other people moved it, but did not have a clue about where the muscles were that I wanted to control. Neuroplasticity allows stroke survivors to grow new connections in the brain, but that does not mean we can find them. The biofeedback component of NeuroMove helped me find connections I did not know I had. NeuroMove stimulated muscles AND helped me retrain my brain.