Stroke Training and Awareness Resources (STARs)

Management of arm weakness

Altered muscle tone: How you handle and position a person’s arm will influence their muscle tone. Liaise with the physiotherapists and occupational therapists for advice on individual cases.

Spasticity: As the limb is too tense providing adequate support will help it to relax. You can use pillows and tables to help provide this support. When you handle the limb you should use slow and careful movements. Occupational therapists and physiotherapists may provide specialist equipment such as splints.

Contracture can be prevented by using the techniques outlined in ‘Altered muscle tone’ and ‘Spasticity’ sections above.

Pain: Careful moving and handling of the weak arm is needed to help prevent pain. When you move the arm ensure you are fully supporting the whole arm and use adequate support e.g. pillows, tables. You should ask the person if they have any pain and report any concerns to senior staff as pain can affect a person’s mood and ability to participate in rehabilitation.

Subluxation: If a person has a subluxed shoulder it is essential that you are careful when moving and handling the arm. Always ensure that you are fully supporting the whole of the arm and use adequate support e.g. pillows and tables to position the arm appropriately. Shoulder supports may be provided by the physiotherapist.

Swelling/oedema: Careful positioning of the arm will help to prevent/reduce swelling. The arm should be well supported using e.g. pillows, tables. Encouraging the person to gently rub/massage their hand/arm can also help to reduce swelling.

Page last reviewed: 20 Jan 2020