Background: In an ageing geriatric population, tremor and poor balance become more pronounced and can lead to falls. Falls are the leading cause of mortality in this population. Continuous heat wraps have been shown to increase tissue flexibility. It was the purpose of this study to examine the effects of heat on balance and gait in the elderly with impaired mobility.
Subjects: Twenty people with impaired mobility (assessed as a score of more than 4 on the “Stepping On” questionnaire) were tested with a balance platform after using ThermaCare continuous heat wraps on their legs and knees for 6 days. Data was collected at day 0 (before heat) and day 7. The average age was 60.3+/-8.3 years. The loss in mobility could not be due to pain killers or other drugs the person was taking that may reduce mobility. Half of the subjects started with a week of heat treatment and half were no heat controls. At the end of the first arm, there was a one week washout and the groups were reversed.
Methods: Balance was assessed on a custom made balance platform during 8 different balance tasks lasting 10 seconds each and presented at random. Tremor was measured during the balance tasks at 8 and 24 Hertz. Gait was assessed by the “timed up and go” test.
Results: Muscle tremor was reduced; balance and gait were significantly improved, after 6 sessions of heat application on the legs.
Conclusion: As per the literature, this improvement in balance should reduce the chance of falls in this population.
Petrofsky, J. S., Laymon, M. S., & Khowailed, I. A. (2015). The effect of continuous heat wraps on balance and gait in the elderly. Anatomy & Physiology: Current Research, 5(3) [Article 178].