The objective of this review was to assess the efficacy of CIMT, modified CIMT (mCIMT), or forced use (FU) for arm management in hemiparetic patients. 19 studies involving 619 participants were included. The trials included participants who had some residual motor power of the paretic arm, the potential for further motor recovery and with limited pain or spasticity, but tended to use the limb little if at all. Only five studies had adequate allocation concealment. The majority of studies were underpowered and we cannot rule out small-trial bias. Six trials (184 patients) assessed disability immediately after the intervention, indicating a significant standard mean difference. For the most frequently reported outcome, arm motor function, the SMD was 0.72. There were only two studies that explored disability improvement after a few months of follow up and found no significant difference, SMD -0.07.
CIMT is a multifaceted intervention: the restriction to the normal limb is accompanied by a certain amount of exercise of the appropriate quality. It is associated with a moderate reduction in disability assessed at the end of the treatment period. However, for disability measured some months after the end of treatment, there was no evidence of persisting benefit. Further randomised trials, with larger sample sizes and longer follow up, are justified.