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Vibrating shoes aid stroke patients: Study

Vibrating insoles can improve balance in patients with stroke or diabetic neuropathy, says a research report.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2006 13:29 IST

Vibrating insoles can improve balance in patients with stroke or diabetic neuropathy, a common nerve problem that affects sensation in the feet and elsewhere, Boston researchers report.

The vibration, adjusted to a sub-sensory level, appears to "tickle" neurons, making them more sensitive to stimuli that are present during standing, Dr. James J. Collins of Boston University, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

Collins and his team had previously shown that sub-sensory mechanical noise delivered to the feet via the insoles could help people maintain better balance.

In the current study, published in the Annals of Neurology, the researchers tested the effects of the vibrating insoles on sway parameters in 15 patients with diabetic neuropathy and 15 patients with stroke. Patients stood on the insoles, which contained two vibrating elements on each forefoot and one on each heel.

Data from a previous study of the insoles in 12 healthy elderly patients was included for comparison.

The researchers looked at five traditional sway parameters and three derived from random-walk analysis. All were reduced significantly with the noise application in all of the patients, the researchers found. And the greater a patient's baseline level of postural sway, the more balance control improved with noise input.

Additional research is needed to investigate how the technology may benefit patients with stroke affecting different parts of the brain, for example the right versus the left side of the brain, the researchers add.

"The main thing that we're focusing on now is testing whether the insoles provide benefit in dynamic activity such as walking," Collins said. He and his colleagues have completed prototypes of insoles and shoes incorporating the vibrating elements, and are planning studies to test them as patients walk, climb stairs and negotiate other activities of daily living.

His team also plans to investigate whether the vibrating insoles can help Parkinson's disease patients and patients with multiple sclerosis.

First Published: Jan 25, 2006 13:18 IST