A technique called Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) may improve walking for people suffering from Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, a new study has found.
Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) uses electrical impulses to stimulate weak or paralyzed muscles and it usually helps stroke or multiple sclerosis patients to walk.
Now, Geraldine E. Mann of Salisbury Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in England has successfully used FES to help patients of Parkinson's disease as well.
Parkinson's patients are prone to tripping and falling as they not only face difficulty in picking up their feet consistently, but also in starting and maintaining walking.
While it's known that visual and auditory cues and cognitive strategies can improve walking ability in Parkinson's sufferers, but this is the first time that that FES has been considered as a potential aid.
"Stimulation is triggered in FES by a footswitch usually placed in the heel of the shoe. As the heel rises stimulation starts, continues as the leg swings through and stops when the heel strikes the ground, continuing this cycle as the person walks," explained Mann.
The researchers discovered have found considerable significant evidence that FES can straight away reduce falls in Parkinson's patients, and can also improve average stride length, speed of gait and distance walked.
Scientists have also shown that carryover or learning effect for improvements gained during FES use also continues even when stimulation has stopped.
Mann said that while a larger study is required to support these findings, "they are interesting and deserve further investigation for the sake of people with Parkinson's disease for whom there is little treatment other than medication to alleviate the problems they have with walking. FES could make a big difference to their quality of life and provide therapists with an additional and much needed treatment modality."
The study is published in Neuromodulation.