A groundbreaking study by staff at Stobhill Hospital has produced promising results for sufferers of Parkinson’s disease with mobility issues.
Consultant geriatrician Dr Anne-Louise Cunnington and specialist physiotherapist Lois Rosenthal formulated the research which suggested rhythmic sensory electrical stimulation reduced episodes of ‘freezing’ of movement and helped those with the condition walk more quickly.
The condition gained prominence recently when Billy Connolly spoke of his fear of being unable to move freely on stage in his documentary ‘Made in Scotland’.
Speaking candidly about the abnormality, the much loved Glasgow-born comedian said: “I discovered that I got kinda rooted to the spot and became afraid to move.
“Instead of going away to the front of the stage and prowling along the front the way I used to do I stood where I was.”
Dr Cunnington said: “‘Freezing of Gait’ is a movement abnormality that presents in the more advanced stages of the disease and is one of the most debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s.
“People with Parkinson’s often describe it is as a feeling as if their feet are stuck or glued to the floor preventing them from moving forward.
“The unpredictable nature of ‘Freezing of Gait’ leads to increased falls risk and increased fear of falling.
“The results from this study give hope for the development of a new non-pharmaceutical way of improving the management of freezing.”
The Stobhill Hospital study was carried out in conjunction with the National University Ireland Galway (NUI Galway.
It involved people testing out electronic devices to help manage this debilitating motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease.
Physiotherapist Lois Rosenthal recorded the time taken to complete a walking task and the number of ‘Freezing of Gait’ episodes which occurred during the task.
This data was analysed statistically and showed that stimulation (eES) resulted in a reduction in both time and frequency.
Ms Rosenthal said: “‘Freezing of Gait’ is one of the most frustrating and difficult symptoms for patients to suffer and specialists to treat.
“This common feature of Parkinson’s is not improved by current medications, and inconsistently responds to physiotherapy techniques.
“This collaboration between NHSGGC and NUI Galway explored a new treatment and the results were very encouraging. We now need a larger scale study to further evaluate effectiveness and real-life practicality.”