Archived Policies - Therapy

Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy


Effective Date:02-01-2006

End Date:08-14-2008


Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) is experimental, investigational and unproven for the treatment of motor disorders including but not limited to those resulting from stroke, traumatic brain injury, or congenital motor disorders including cerebral palsy.

NOTE: Refer to legislative section for Texas and Illinois.


Constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT), also known as constraint-induced therapy (CIT) or forced use movement therapy, is a therapeutic approach to rehabilitation of movement after stroke or other neurological events.  CIMT has been used to improve motor function in patients following a cerebrovascular accident (CVA).  The intensity and schedule of delivery of CIMT is different than that of traditional physical therapy. CIMT involves a technique of restraining the unimpaired limb and forcing use of the impaired limb during normal daily activities and rehabilitation exercises.  The non affected upper extremity is secured in a sling for 90% of waking hours, while the affected arm receives intensive training in a variety of tasks six hours per day for two to three weeks.

CIMT has been used in patients with:

  • chronic and subacute CVA,
  • chronic brain injury,
  • incomplete spinal cord injury,
  • cerebral palsy,
  • fractured hip,
  • phantom limb pain, as well as
  • musicians with focal hand dystonia. 

The exact mechanism by which CIMT produces its therapeutic effect is not known, but imaging studies suggest that use-dependent cortical reorganization may occur after CI therapy.


Although there are preliminary reports that CIMT is effective in improving motor ability of patients after stroke or brain injury, there are no multi-center trials. Only a few studies randomized patients.  Fewer studies employed a separate control group.  They used patients as their own control group.  In a randomized study (n=66), van der Lee et al (1999) reported a small improvement in motor impairment in patients with chronic hemiparesis treated with CIMT.  However, the improvement was judged to be of potential clinical significance only in patients with sensory loss or neglect.   In another randomized study (n=20), Dromerick et al.   (2000) found that CIMT resulted in a marked improvement in motor impairment.  The outcome measure was determined only at the end of the 14 day treatment, and the differences in motor impairment did not clearly translate into improvements in the function of activities of daily living. Thus, randomized controlled trials showing the effectiveness of CIMT are unconvincing.

Bonifer and Anderson (2003), in a study on the use of CIMT in the treatment of severe chronic upper extremity hemiplegia, found that the increased outcome scores were not maintained over the long term and that CIMT did not result in improved functional ability.  The authors concluded that further investigation of CIMT is warranted.

Boyd and associates (2001), in a review on the management of upper limb dysfunction in children with cerebral palsy, concluded that there is a small number of randomized clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of various management options including CIMT.

In a randomized controlled study, Taub et al. (2004) evaluated the applicability of CIMT to young children with cerebral palsy (n=18, aged 7 to 96 months).  Patients were randomly assigned to receive either pediatric CIMT or conventional treatment.  Pediatric CIMT involved promoting use of the more affected arm and hand by intensive training (using shaping) of the more-impaired upper extremity for six hours/day for 21 consecutive days coupled with bi-valved casting of the child’s less-affected upper extremity for that period.  Patients were followed for six months.  The authors found that pediatric CIMT produced major and sustained improvement in motor function in the young children with hemiparesis.  The results of this trial are promising, but its finding needs to be validated by studies with larger sample size and longer follow-up to ensure that gains that might occur persist for over two years as proposed by Winstein et al (2003).

Pierce et al. (2004) examined the effectiveness of a program of traditional outpatient neurological rehabilitation that included home forced use.  In total, 17 patients with chronic stroke and one patient with subacute stroke (mean time post stroke = 27.6 months) completed an individualized program consisting of seven two hour treatment sessions composed of one hour of occupational therapy and one hour of physical therapy.   Therapy sessions were completed over a two - three week period and included instruction on the use of a restraining mitt at home during functional activities.  The authors stated that the preliminary results suggest that the forced-use component of CIMT may be effective when applied within a traditional outpatient rehabilitation program.  Additional investigation is required to examine the effectiveness of using forced use within typical outpatient rehabilitation under more experimentally controlled conditions.

Siegert et al. (2004) considered some issues surrounding CIMT, such as its theoretical basis, effectiveness, utility and composition.  The authors stated that considerable evidence from case studies and case series has accumulated but only a limited number of randomized controlled trials exist.  The two most positive studies represent a combined total of 15 people undergoing CIMT.  There is a need for replication by groups not already associated with CIMT.  CIMT may hold promise, but independent, large-scale, multi-centered studies comparing its effectiveness with conventional therapy of equal intensity are required

Van der Lee (2003) reviewed the findings of four randomized clinical studies on CIMT, and stated that although the investigators of all four studies reported positive results, when the statistical variance of the randomized studies was calculated, they yielded no significant differences.  In one of the studies, a differential effect was found for patients with sensory disorders and hemi-neglect, leading to the hypothesis that learned non-use may be primarily related to afferent impairments.  The author concluded that the learned non-use theory requires further exploration and that the evidence regarding the effectiveness of CIMT is not yet conclusive.  This is in agreement with the observation of Bonifer and Anderson (2003) who stated that further investigation of CIMT, as well as investigation of CIMT in combination with other motor recovery interventions is warranted.

Well designed studies with large sample sizes, long-term follow-up and appropriate control groups (e.g., other motor rehabilitation regimes in similar treatment time and intensity) are needed to determine the effectiveness of CIMT in the treatment of motor disorders caused by neurological injury.

There is no documented standardized protocol for performing CIMT.  Further studies are needed to determine the best protocol for sustained results.


Each benefit plan, summary plan description or contract defines which services are covered, which services are excluded, and which services are subject to dollar caps or other limitations, conditions or exclusions. Members and their providers have the responsibility for consulting the member's benefit plan, summary plan description or contract to determine if there are any exclusions or other benefit limitations applicable to this service or supply. If there is a discrepancy between a Medical Policy and a member's benefit plan, summary plan description or contract, the benefit plan, summary plan description or contract will govern.



Medicare Coverage:

Constraint-induced movement therapy is not supported by a coverage position of the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  Medicare does not have a national position on this service. It is subject to local carrier discretion. Please refer to the local carrier for more information


Taub, E., Uswatte, G., et al.  Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy: A new Family of Techniques with Broad Application to Physical Rehabilitation.  Journal of Rehabilitative Research and Development. (July 1999) 36(3); 1-15. 

Van der Lee, J.H., Wagenaar, R.C., et al.  Forced use of the upper extremity in chronic stroke patients: results from a single blind randomized clinical trial.  Stroke (November 1999) 30(11): 2369-75. 

Van der Lee, J.H., Beckerman, H., et al.  Constraint-induced movement therapy.  Physical Therapy (2000) 80(7):711-713. 

Dromerick, A.W., Edwards, D.F., et al.  Does the application of constraint-induced movement therapy during acute rehabilitation reduce arm impairment after ischemic stroke?  Stroke (December 2000) 31(12): 298-8. 

Van der Lee, J.H.  Constraint-induced therapy for stroke: more of the same or something different?  Current Opinion in Neurology (December 2001) 14(6):741-4. 

Van der Lee, J.H.  Constraint-induced movement therapy: Some thoughts about theories and evidence.  Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (2003) (41 Suppl):41-45. 

Page, S.J., Elovic, E., et al.  Modified constraint-induced therapy and botulinum toxin A: a promising combination.  American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (January 2003) 82(10:76-80. 

Bonifer, N., Anderson, K.M.  Application of constraint-induced movement therapy for an individual with severe chronic upper-extremity hemiplegia.  Physical Therapy (April 2003) 83(4):384-98. 

Winstein, C.J., Miller, J.P., et al.  Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair (September 2003) 17(3):137-52. Methods for a multisite randomized trial to investigate the effect of constraint-induced movement therapy in improving upper extremity function among adults recovering from a cerebrovascular accident.

Pierce, S.R., Gallagher, K.G., et al. Home forced use in an outpatient rehabilitation program for adults with hemiplegia: A pilot study.  Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair (2003) 17(4):214-219. 

Taub, E., Ramey, S., et al.  Efficacy of Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy for Children with Cerebral Palsy with Asymmetric Motor Impairment.  Pediatrics.  (February 2004) 113(2):305-312. 

Siegert, R.J., Lord, K.  Constraint-induced movement therapy: time for a little restraint?  Clinical Rehabilitation (February 2004) 18(1)110-4.

Policy History:

Archived Document(s):

Title:Effective Date:End Date:
Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT)09-01-201709-30-2018
Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT)06-01-201608-31-2017
Constraint Induced Movement Therapy10-01-201505-31-2016
Constraint Induced Movement Therapy01-01-201409-30-2015
Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy08-15-200812-31-2013
Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy02-01-200608-14-2008
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