|NESS H200. Photograph courtesy of Bioness.|
The human hand, with its intricate complex of functions and sensitivity, serves as a kind of key to the human world. Without it, we have limited access to an endless array of human tools—doorknobs and shirt buttons, steering wheels and credit cards. Without use of the forearm and shoulder, we lose our long primate reach, the use of the limb to defend ourselves, and even the ability to hug. For survivors of stroke, paralysis and spasticity of the upper limb are two of the most common and frustrating results of the event. In a survey published in International Rehabilitation Medicine, 24 percent of stroke survivors were found to have moderate or severe upper-limb paralysis three months after the event; five percent had shoulder pain; eight percent had restricted passive shoulder movement, and 17 percent had some paralysis of the dominant arm (Parker VM, Wade DT, Langton Hewer R. Loss of arm function after stroke: measurement, frequency, and recovery. Int Rehabil Med. 1986;8(2):69-73).