News Release

Yaskawa Develops a Physical Therapy Device for Repetitive Facilitation Exercise Therapy (Kawahira Method)
– Supporting Medical Treatment to Overcome the After-Effects of Stroke –

TechnologyMay 27, 2013

  Working with Kagoshima University, Yaskawa Electric Corporation (Junji Tsuda, Representative Director, Chairman and President) has recently jointly developed a physical therapy device (equipment for exercising the upper extremities) for repetitive facilitation exercise therapy (Kawahira Method). It is anticipated that use of this device will hasten the recovery of patients suffering paralysis of the upper extremities as a result of the after-effects of stroke. Yaskawa will continue its clinical research efforts, collecting evidence showing its therapeutic value and continuing in its efforts to improve the device. Plans are to release the device to market in 2015. Joining up with Kagoshima University in collaborative research efforts, Yaskawa will also be carrying out clinical research with an eye toward making new products in the form of training equipment for other body parts, such as the forearms, fingers and legs as well as devices to assist patients in walking.


1. Circumstances Surrounding Development

  Each year approximately 300,000 people suffer stroke in Japan; the total number of stroke victims in the country is estimated to be upwards of 3 million individuals. Many stroke victims are left with paralysis on one side of their bodies and other disabilities. Patients need to work with a physical therapist and other professionals for an extended period of physical therapy in order to recover. Furthermore, further recovery seems to be difficult beyond six months of the occurrence of stroke.
  In recent years, the repetitive facilitation exercise therapy (Kawahira Method) developed by Dr. Kazumi Kawahira, formerly a professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine of the Kagoshima University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences has shown extraordinary results when it comes to helping stroke victims suffering from paralysis in their recovery efforts. Also, unlike traditional methods, the Kawahira method has proven effective in continued physical therapy carried out beyond six months of the occurrence of stroke. However, a certain level of skill is needed for repetitive facilitation exercise therapy, which involves having the patient exercise the part of his or her body that is paralyzed while providing several stimuli. For this reason, there are still very few therapists well versed in this therapy, and as a result there are few patients undergoing this treatment.

2. Goals of Development

  Given the challenges outlined above, Yaskawa set to work on collaborative research efforts with a repetitive facilitation exercise therapy research group (see Note below) from Kagoshima University. Based on repetitive facilitation exercise therapy (the Kawahira Method), the development of physical therapy devices for the arms, forearms, fingers, legs as well as walking functions that utilizes Yaskawa’s motion control and robot technology is underway. This effort produced the joint development of the initial device, an apparatus for exercising the upper extremities. This device made it possible for patients to engage in repeated arm exercises (exercises where patients stretch their arms toward a target located above and anterior to them) over an extended period of time. It is anticipated that the device will be useful in speeding up the recovery of patients’ paralyzed arms as well as reducing the burdens on therapists.


Note: The Kagoshima University repetitive facilitation exercise therapy research group (Dr. Kazumi Kawahira, visiting researcher for Multidisciplinary Research at the Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences (formerly professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine), Associate Professor Megumi Shimodozono (Head, Kirishima Rehabilitation Center), Associate Professor Yong Yu and Associate Professor Ryota Hayashi, Faculty of Science, Associate Professor Yasuhiro Sueyoshi, Department of Education) carried out research and development on stimulation methods over many years by means of physical therapy support robot technology that implements repetitive facilitation exercise therapy, as well as producing oscillation and electrical stimulus. This physical therapy equipment is the result of these efforts.

3. Features of the Equipment for Exercising the Upper Extremities

・The equipment helps patients stretch their paralyzed upper extremities (shoulders, elbows) upwards and forwards, and then bend their arm directly in front of themselves.


・The patient’s wrists are suspended by a wire with the weight of the arm supported via the force of a motor, allowing even frail patients to move their arms.


・Buttons are positioned directly in front of the patient at chest height and a little higher and farther away. The patient bends and stretches his or her arms and presses the buttons one after the other. Typically the patient repeats this between 100 and 1,000 times each day.


・A synchronized vibrating stimulus as well as electrical stimulation is applied (referred to as facilitation) to the muscles used when bending and stretching as these are being exercised, facilitating the voluntary movement of the patient’s arms.


・These facilitation stimulations help to arouse the neuronal circuits that convey the movements of the shoulders and elbows (from the environs of intracranial damage to the spinal cord), allowing for the repetition of motion. This results in strengthening of efficient neural pathways, which is anticipated to lead to facilitation of recovery from paralysis.



Corporate Communication Group
YASKAWA Electric Corporation


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