OBJECTIVE. We investigated motor control and muscle activation when reaching for and grasping objects with a reacher compared with the unaided hand.

METHOD. In a repeated-measures counterbalanced design, 41 healthy participants with no previous experience using a reacher were randomly assigned to a sequence of four conditions. Movements of the wrist and fingers were recorded using a three-dimensional Qualisys camera system for assessing reach and grasp. Muscle activations from finger and arm flexors and extensors were recorded by surface electromyography.

RESULTS. Participants exhibited a smaller grasp aperture, longer reaching time, and more muscle activity when they used a reacher.

CONCLUSION. Efficient motor control, which requires both time and practice, is needed to successfully use a reacher. Clients presented with reachers without sufficient time to develop motor skills unique to reacher use may be more likely to abandon this assistive device and fail to benefit from its function.

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