Objectives To determine the effect of 10,000 voluntary contractions over 8 weeks on the strength of very weak muscles in people with spinal cord injury (SCI).
Settings Seven hospitals in Australia and Asia.
Methods One hundred and twenty people with recent SCI undergoing inpatient rehabilitation were randomised to either a Treatment or Control Group. One major muscle group from an upper or lower limb was selected if the muscle had grade 1 or grade 2 strength on a standard six-point manual muscle test. Participants allocated to the Treatment Group performed 10,000 isolated contractions of the selected muscle group, as well as usual care in 48 sessions over 8 weeks. Participants allocated to the Control Group received usual care alone. Participants were assessed at baseline and 8 weeks by a blinded assessor. The primary outcome was voluntary muscle strength on a 13-point manual muscle test. There were three secondary outcomes capturing therapists’ and participants’ perceptions of strength and function.
Results The mean between-group difference of voluntary strength at 8 weeks was 0.4/13 points (95% confidence interval −0.5 to 1.4) in favour of the Treatment Group. There were no notable between-group differences on any secondary outcome.
Conclusion Ten thousand isolated contractions of very weak muscles in people with SCI over 8 weeks has either no or a very small effect on voluntary strength.