Technology Makes Things Possible for Stroke Patients with Foot Drop
“For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.”
This quote, which appeared in an IBM manual, circa 1991, is one of my favorites, and it is especially relevant for stroke survivors.
Today, state-of-the-art rehabilitation technologies are becoming vital to the rehabilitation process for stroke survivors. These technologies, when combined with expert hands-on therapies, can help stroke patients return to their optimal level of function and independence.
Foot drop, where patients have poor foot clearance and, therefore, drag their foot while walking, is a good example of a condition that has benefited from new technology.
For patients with foot drop, technology provides assistance via electrical stimulation neuroprosthetics. Electrical stimulation devices stimulate muscle re-education, prevent atrophy and promote a more natural walking pattern.
These devices are placed on the affected leg during rehabilitation. They stimulate certain muscles to get patients walking with a more normal gait. The device can be set to accommodate different speeds of walking and different terrain. Of course, a trained therapist must be present during rehabilitation to ensure that the device is appropriately calibrated, to guide the patient and to act as motivator.
Patients can also take some electrical stimulation devices home with them, increasing their value to the patient.
Best of all for patients is that many electrical stimulation devices are inconspicuous. They resemble the knee braces worn by athletes after surgery, and they can be worn with regular shoes.
One 25-year-old post-stroke patient who came to us for therapy was delighted because the e-stim device allowed her to wear stylish shoes again.
For information on some of the rehabilitation technologies available to stroke survivors at Good Shepherd, click here.
Sue Golden, PT, and Kathy Slezak, PT, contributed to this post. Watch this blog for more information on other ways that technology can help patients in the stroke rehabilitation process.