University of Oulu

Human motor performance and physiotherapy : effect of strapping, hot and cold pack treatments and strength training

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Author: Kauranen, Kari1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 1999
Publish Date: 1999-02-01
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Auditorium 1 of the University Hospital of Oulu, on February 26th, 1999, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Docent Pertti Era
Docent Simo Taimela


Human motor performance and motor skills are essential aspects of various daily activities, and their importance is especially great in traffic, sports and unexpected situations. There is evidence that physically active subjects have better performance in some motor tasks (e.g. reaction time) than less active ones, and a few longitudinal intervention studies have shown that training improves certain aspects of motor performance, but there are also contradictory results. Despite the difficulty of improving motor performance, many physiotherapy programs and treatments are expected to do precisely that. However, the previous literature contains little information on these issues.

The aim of the present doctoral project was to examine human motor performance (reaction time, speed of movement, tapping speed and coordination) and the effects of some of the most commonly used physiotherapy treatments on it in normal healthy volunteers. In addition, the reliability of the motor performance measurements performed with the HPM/BEP system is presented.

Study I was a cross-sectional study of the population of Oulu, where 200 healthy randomly selected subjects (100 men and 100 women aged 21–70 years) were stratified by gender and by ten-year age group into ten groups. The test battery consisted of six motor performance tests for both hands and feet.

The studies II, III and V were non-controlled intervention studies, and study IV was a cross-over intervention study. The participants in the studies were healthy, voluntary staff members (n = 14–30) of the Oulu University Hospital, and the interventions between the measurements consisted of strapping of the ankle and wrist joints (study II), hot and cold pack treatments of the hand (study III), one-hour hand strength training session (study IV) and a ten -week hand strength training program (study V).

The results showed that motor performance was poorer in the older age groups in both genders. The average speed of movement and tapping speed values were higher for men than for women, but there were no gender differences in the coordination tests or the hand reaction time tests. All values (except the hand reaction times) were better for the dominant than the nondominant side.

The strapping of the ankle and wrist joints decreased some aspects of the motor performance and muscle strength of these joints in healthy subjects. The hot pack treatment of healthy subjects caused only minor changes in the motor performance of the treated area, while the cold pack treatment decreased almost all of the measured aspects, and these changes were especially notable in fine motor movements.

A one-hour hand strength training session decreased acutely muscle strength and EMG activity, but muscle fatigue had no effects on the motor performance functions of the hand. It seems that the feeling of incompetence to perform speed and accurate movements with fatigued muscles is mainly a subjective feeling, and that the real effect of muscle fatigue on motor performance is less than generally expected. A ten-week hand strength training period increased muscle strength and EMG activity in the trained muscles. There was also a suggestion that even non-task-specific training may improve some aspects of the motor performance of the hand, and an increase in the activation of motor units during muscle contraction may improve motor performance in some motor tasks.

In addition, the results indicated that the HPM / BEP system is a potentially useful tool for studying motor performance, and the reliability of the system is acceptable.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. D, Medica
ISSN-E: 1796-2234
ISBN: 951-42-5143-1
ISBN Print: 951-42-5142-3
Issue: 508
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 1999. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.