A tactile stimulus applied to the leg improves postural stability in young, old and neuropathic subjects Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The purpose of this study was to determine whether the application of passive tactile cues to the lower limb could improve postural stability in healthy young controls, older people and people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Antero-posterior sway was measured with eyes open and closed in 10 healthy young subjects (mean age 27 years, 5 male, 5 female), 10 older subjects without diabetic peripheral neuropathy (mean age 88 years, 2 male, 8 female) and 10 subjects with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (mean age 65 years, 6 male, 4 female) while a small piece of Velcro attached to a flexible mount was applied to three different sites on the leg (ankle, calf, and knee). Across all conditions, the mean sway of the neuropathic subjects was 93% greater than for the young subjects and 11% more than the older subjects. On average, subjects swayed 10% more with the eyes closed than with the eyes open. Each stimulus reduced sway, but the effect increased approximately in proportion to the height of the stimulus above the ankles (ankle 7.6%, calf 13.5%, knee 20.1% reduction compared to the no stimulus condition). This experiment demonstrates that a passive stimulus applied to the skin of the leg, which provides sensory information about body movement, significantly reduces body sway during standing. This applies to older subjects and subjects with peripheral neuropathy as well as healthy young subjects. These results have implications for novel approaches for improving stability in people with peripheral sensory loss.

publication date

  • October 2006