New research combining electrical stimulation and physiotherapy to help with mobility

Friday 16 May 2014

Seventy-two percent of stroke survivors in the UK are affected by leg weakness, which can cause a condition called 'drop foot'.  This condition affects the muscles raising the foot, causing problems walking, reduced mobility, and loss of independence.

The Stroke Association funded a feasibility study into improving the treatment of this condition, which was recently published in the medical journal, Disability & Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology.

Dr Paul Taylor's research team conducted the study.  They looked into the effectiveness of using functional electrical stimulation (FES), in combination with physiotherapy to treat early stage stroke patients (less than six months after stroke) as outpatients in their own homes. Currently FES has only been tested with patients at least six months into rehabilitation.

FES is an existing, safe and effective treatment which applies pads that send electrical signals to stimulate muscles in the lower leg.  This raises the foot at the right time, allowing greater walking mobility. 

Research physiotherapist, Ingrid Wilkinson, conceived and led the project, which compared the use of combined FES and physiotherapy with treatment using physiotherapy alone.  The research suggests that patients are able to walk further and feel better if FES is included as part of their rehabilitation.

We hope this study will pave the way for even better treatments that will help stroke survivors with drop foot enjoy greater mobility and independence.

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