New research suggests that limb heaviness is related to post-stroke fatigue but not muscle weakness

Thursday 23 July

Dr Anna Kuppuswamy is one of our Postdoctoral Fellows. We fund her research, which looks at is what happening in the brains of people who experience fatigue because of a stroke.

Her latest research was published (online ahead of print) on Friday in the journal, Neurorehabilitation & Neural Repair.  She has published two other related research papers in the journal JNNP in April 2015, and Brain in November 2014). 

What is post-stroke fatigue?

Fatigue is one of the most common effects of stroke. It can make people feel unwell and like they're not in control of their recovery. They may feel like they lack energy or strength and feel constantly weary or tired. Post-stroke fatigue does not always improve with rest and is not necessarily related to recent activity. So it is not like typical tiredness.

Post-stroke fatigue can range from relatively mild to severe and the intensity of the tiredness does not seem to be related to the severity or type of stroke experienced.

Although post-stroke fatigue is poorly understood, it is thought to be due to problems in the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord) caused by stroke.

What did the latest research show?

Dr Kuppuswamy's most recent study involved 69 people who reported non-exercise related fatigue and were in the chronic stages of stroke. They were assessed for their levels of fatigue and whether they experienced limb heaviness with special questionnaires, and assessed for their degree of motor (movement) impairment with three different tests (with a combined score of all three).

Dr Kuppuswamy found significant associations between stroke survivors feelings of limb heaviness and their levels of fatigue perceived.  However, she found no association between stroke survivors' feelings of limb heaviness and their score for motor impairment.

This all suggests that feelings of limb heaviness are not related to the actual muscle weakness after stroke as is commonly thought, but instead related to other signals in the brain which are involved in people's perception of fatigue after stroke.

Although this research is still at the very early stages, Dr Kuppuswamy's research continues to lay important foundations which could help discover future treatments for stroke patients with fatigue.

Dr Kuppuswamy is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at  University College London. Visit her website for more information.

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