Small electric shocks can be used to improve walking in patients with Parkinson's Disease, a study has shown.
Subjects received an eight week programme of functional electrical stimulation of the peroneal nerve through a neuromuscular stimulator powered by a 9V battery.
Stimulation was applied through self-adhesive electrodes positioned over the head of the fibula.
Changes in walking patterns were measured using a series of walking tests – measurements of the number of steps during a 20m walk and turn, time taken to complete a 20m walk and turn, distance walked over 3 mins and average stride length in 3 mins.
Weekly tests over 16 weeks showed average time taken to walk 20m and turn fell from 35.6s to 29.1s.
Distance over 3mins improved from 110.5-122.8m, although the effect was reduced once stimulation ceased.
Aeverage stride in 3 minutes increased during the whole treatment period and were partially maintained at the end of follow-up.
Authors wrote: ‘This study has shown that FES can improve some measured parameters of gait over an eight-week period of use in some people with PD. These include improvements over time in average stride length, speed of gait, and distance walked and an immediate reduction in the frequency of falls.
'A carryover effect has been demonstrated with improvements maintained without stimulation during the period of use.’
However they added a larger study was needed to support the findings.
Neuromodulation (2008) 11:143-149