BACKGROUND: In both clinical and occupational settings, ambulatory sensors are becoming common for assessing all day measurements of arm motion. In order for the motion of a healthy, contralateral side to be used as a control for the involved side, the inherent side to side differences in arm usage must be minimal. The goal of the present study was to determine the reliability of side to side measurements of upper extremity activity levels in healthy subjects.
METHODS: Thirty two subjects with no upper extremity pathologies were studied. Each subject wore a triaxial accelerometer on both arms for three and a half hours. Motion was assessed using parameters previously reported in the literature. Side to side differences were compared with the intraclass correlation coefficient, standard error of the mean, minimal detectable change scores and a projected sample size analysis.
RESULTS: The variables were ranked based on their percentage of minimal detectable change scores and sample sizes needed for paired t-tests. The order of these rankings was found to be identical and the top ranked parameters were activity counts per hour (MDC% = 9.5, n = 5), jerk time (MDC% = 15.8, n = 8) and percent time above 30 degrees (MDC% = 34.7, n = 9).
CONCLUSIONS: In general, the mean activity levels during daily activities were very similar between dominant and non-dominant arms. Specifically, activity counts per hour, jerk time, and percent time above 30 degrees were found to be the variables most likely to reveal significant difference or changes in both individuals and groups of subjects. The use of ambulatory measurements of upper extremity activity has very broad uses for occupational assessments, musculoskeletal injuries of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand as well as neurological pathologies.
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