Use of Mental Imagery to Limit Strength Loss after Immobilization

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Johanna Newsom
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Peter Knight
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Ronald Balnave
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Objective:

To assess whether mental imagery of gripping prevents the loss of grip strength associated with forearm immobilization.

Design:

Pretest–posttest randomized-group design.

Setting:

Laboratory.

Participants:

13 female and 5 male university students, age between 17 and 30 years, randomly assigned into 2 groups—1 control and 1 experimental.

Interventions:

Both groups had their nondominant forearms immobilized for 10 days. The experimental group undertook three 5-min mental-imagery sessions daily, during which they imagined they were squeezing a rubber ball.

Main Outcome Measures:

Wrist-flexion and -extension and grip strength before and after immobilization.

Results:

There was no significant change in wrist-flexion or -extension strength in the mental-imagery group. The control group experienced a significant decrease in wrist-flexion and -extension strength during the period of immobilization (P < .05).

Conclusions:

Despite study limitations, the results suggest that mental imagery might be useful in preventing the strength loss associated with short-term muscle immobilization

The authors are with the School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sydney, Lidcombe, NSW 2141, Australia.

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