Much of the research and development focus for treating Multiple Sclerosis revolves around pharmaceuticals. However, the development and use of novel medical devices are also becoming a factor in treating the disease as well. A new study entitled “A dorsiflexion assist orthosis reduces the physiological cost and mitigates deterioration in strength and balance associated with walking in people with Multiple Sclerosis” published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reports patients with multiple sclerosis exhibit beneficial effects from wearing a Dorsiflexion Assist Orthosis.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. Currently without a cure, MS affects more than 2.3 million people in the world, 300,000 to 400,000 of which live in the U.S. alone. The disease is characterized by destruction of the myelin layer within nerve cells. This leads to a wide range of neurological symptoms affecting visual, motor, and sensory capabilities. Thus, not surprisingly, fatigue and balance impairments are a major limitation to MS patients.
A Dorsiflexion Assist Orthosis is an orthotic that supports the ankle and lower leg, which helps to improve leg strength and balance. Typically, Dorsiflexion Assist Orthosis designs aid in making it easier to lift the foot during the swing phase of walking, which can be an issue for those with MS.
In this study, the authors aimed to understand the impact of wearing a Dorsiflexion Assist Orthosis (DAO) on a six-minute walk test. Their analysis measured walking distance, physiological cost, fatigue, strength and balance. The authors studied 34 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), of which 26 were females. They compared pre-walk and post-walk changes in knee extensor and ankle dorsiflexor isometric strength, and how walking with eyes open or closed changed the standing postural sway.
While their results showed no differences in both walking distance and perceived fatigue, wearing a DAO showed beneficial effects: it reduced the physiological cost of walking and sustained knee strength and standing balance. The authors suggest their results address an important factor for MS patients’ physical rehabilitation, and therefore have significant clinical implications. Further studies, however, are required to evaluate if the findings here described are maintained for longer periods.