Study shows vibrating insoles could reduce falls among seniors

Vibratory stimulation applied to the soles of the feet improved balance by reducing postural sway and gait variability in elderly people, according to findings published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

“Although loss of sensation in the feet is a common problem among elderly people that can impair balance and gait and result in falls, there are currently no interventions available that can reverse sensory impairments and prevent these dangerous consequences,” Lewis Lipsitz, MD, director of the Institute for Aging Research and lead author of the study, stated in a press release. “We were very excited to discover that small amounts of vibratory noise applied to the soles of the feet may be able to do just that.”

Researchers delivered the vibratory stimulation through a urethane foam insole with embedded piezoelectric actuators, which generated the mechanical stimulation.

The vibrating insole study enrolled 12 elderly volunteers between the ages of 65 years and 90 years old who were in good health. Two piezoelectric actuators used to deliver the vibratory stimulation were placed in the medial arch region of commonly-available insoles. Participants then underwent a battery of tests that measured their balance and assessed their gait. They were also given a timed “Get Up and Go” test that measured how long it took participants to stand up from sitting, walk three meters, turn around, walk back and sit down again.

The vibratory insoles significantly improved performance on the timed “Get Up and Go” test, reduced the range of postural sway and reduced the variability of walking, according to published results. The effect of the insoles also persisted throughout the course of a day.

Disclosure: This study was supported by Merck Sharpe and Dohme (MSD) Consumer Care, Inc., Memphis, Tennessee, the National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Md. and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Boston, Mass.

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