MARYLAND -- Until now, there hasn't been a good device to help people learn to walk after a stroke.
Whether you've suffered a stroke, a traumatic brain injury, or a spinal cord injury, re-training your brain after you recover can be a long and scary road.
It is still difficult for Debbie Henry to understand the life altering stroke that left her hospitalized.
"I'm only 49 years old and this isn't supposed to happen to me," said Debbie.
The stroke made it very difficult for her to walk. Even small steps are a struggle that leave her dizzy and breathless.
But, a new electrical stimulation device is helping. Electrodes are attached to Debbie's leg, then a leg piece is wrapped around.
A wireless handheld device sends mini shocks through the leg muscles. These shocks stimulate muscle re-education.
"Little tingles I guess is the best way to describe it," said Debbie.
Initially the device takes some time to set up for each individual, and can be costly if you purchase your own.
But, according to therapists, you can't argue with the results of the $6,000 device.
"I have hope because I know I can walk. I know that one day I'm going to be able to walk," said Debbie.
Before this device, the only way to help patients learn to walk again was by using an Ace Wrap or a plastic orthotic to splint the toes upward.
For more information on helping stroke patients walk again, read below.
BACKGROUND: According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), foot drop is a condition that makes raising the ankle and toes difficult because of muscle weakness or paralysis.
The condition may result from muscular problems due to neurodegenerative disorders of the brain like cerebral palsy, stroke, or multiple sclerosis. It could also be caused by motor neuron disorders like polio, nerve damage or various other disorders.
Foot drop is most commonly treated by light-weight leg braces and shoe inserts called orthotics, NINDS explains. Exercise therapy to strengthen the muscles may also be performed. Other times, devices like the NESS L300 are used to electrically stimulate the peroneal nerve when the foot falls.
STIMULATION DEVICE: The NESS L300 is designed to treat foot drop. It is distributed by Bioness, Inc., a company in Valencia, Calif., specializing in medical stimulation devices.
According to Bioness, Inc., the small, light-weight NESS L300 wraps around the leg, just below the knee and delivers mild stimulation to lift the foot. The device can improve a person's mobility by increasing their speed on flat ground and allowing them to walk more easily up and down stairs and on uneven surfaces.
The NESS L300 may eliminate the need to wear an orthosis, a bulky device worn to support the skeletal system. Because of its innovative design and benefit to healthcare, the NESS L300 was awarded the Gold 2007 Medical Design Excellence Award (MDEA).
HOW IT WORKS: The device is comprised of three main parts that "talk" with each other through wireless communication. A gait sensor is attached to a person's shoe to let the leg cuff know whether the heel is in the air or touching the ground.
A hand-held remote control allows the wearer to adjust the stimulation level and turn the device on or off.
WHO IT'S FOR: The NESS L300 treats people suffering foot drop as a result of stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, incomplete spinal cord injury, or other neurological disorders that affect the central nervous system.
Bioness, Inc. says people with peripheral nerve disease or injury like Guillain-Barré Syndrome should not use the device. It should also not be worn by people with certain types of pacemakers or implants, people with fractures, dislocations, or cancer in the leg.
Reported Kristy Ondo