Maker of PoNS Device for MS Salutes Physical Therapists

Helius spotlights training program during national observance

Lindsey Shapiro, PhD avatar

by Lindsey Shapiro, PhD |

Share this article:

Share article via email
This illustration shows a medical worker pointing to a sign that reads

For National Physical Therapy Month, Helius Medical Technologies is spotlighting physical therapists who make possible the success of the company’s portable neuromodulation stimulator (PONS) device to treat gait problems in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Helius will broaden access to its free online PoNS training program by enabling physical therapists to sign up at the upcoming American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine Conference in November or the American Physical Therapy Association Meeting in February.

Observed each October, this year’s 30th annual National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM) theme was “Choose To Move,” a nod to the critical role physical therapists play as movement experts for people with mobility problems, including those with MS.

This expertise, the company says, is what has made physical therapists critical during the rollout of PoNS, which was approved for MS patients in the U.S. last year and became available in April.

Recommended Reading
Exercise | Multiple Sclerosis News Today | mSteps walking app | illustration of woman walking

Study: Phone App mSteps Accurately Measures Distance Walked

“How well we can walk has a huge impact on how well we live our lives. And for people with MS, who often have to deal with so many other complications, it’s particularly top-of-mind,” Antonella Favit-Van Pelt, MD, PhD, Helius’ chief medical officer, said in a press release.

“When talking to their doctor, about 85% of them name gait deficit as their primary concern. Within 15 years of an MS diagnosis up to 50% of them will require a walking aid, and 10% will be wheelchair-dependent,” Favit-Van Pelt added.

PoNS is a noninvasive portable device comprised of a mouthpiece connected via a cord to a controller worn around the neck. The mouthpiece delivers a light electrical stimulation to two nerves that run through the tongue and connect with an area of the brain involved in movement.

The goal of this stimulation is to promote neuroplasticity, the process by which the brain adapts and re-wires in response to new experiences. It’s thought that by stimulating this process, neural circuits needed for movement will be strengthened, thereby enhancing the benefits of physical rehabilitation.

PoNS is approved in the U.S. as a short-term treatment for gait deficits in MS patients ages 22 and older, with mild-to-moderate symptoms. It should be used in combination with exercise programs under the supervision of a physical therapist.

For the first two weeks of training, the physical therapist works in-person with patients. This is followed by 12 weeks of at-home use and weekly guidance from the therapist.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval was backed by data from two clinical trials (NCT04498039 and NCT04496531), which cumulatively involved 34 adults with MS. Findings from these studies generally demonstrated that 14 weeks of PoNS combined with exercise was safe and led to improvements in gait, compared with exercise alone.

Real-world data have continued to support the device’s ability to safely and quickly improve walking skills.

On-demand training

To increase awareness of the device, Helius launched a Therapeutic Experience Program, in which the company would partner with medical professionals at 10–12 U.S. institutions wishing to adopt PoNS in their clinics. Helius then launched an on-demand online training module in July to further expand access to training across the U.S.

Physical therapists who complete the free, three-hour course, learn how to use physical exercise in combination with PoNS to maximize rehabilitation gains. According to Helius, a significant number of therapists across the U.S. have already received training, but “they’re only the first wave.”

As new therapists sign up and train, they’re “exemplifying the spirit of both National Physical Therapy Month and ‘Choose to Move,'” Helius stated in the release.

In addition to registering in person at the upcoming meetings, physical therapists can continue to access the online training module.

Dancing Doodle

Did you know some of the news and columns on Multiple Sclerosis News Today are recorded and available for listening on SoundCloud? These audio news stories give our readers an alternative option for accessing information important for them.

Listen Here