A new approach that uses music may improve freezing of gait among patients with Parkinson disease (PD) and can be used as part of an assessment tool to give physical therapists (PTs) and other health care professionals a better understating of symptom severity. Discussion of the new system took place at the 3rd World Parkinson Congress and was reported in Medscape Medical News.
The system is called Ambulosono, and it uses an app called Gait Reminder in conjunction with motion sensing technology in an iPod Touch. The iPod is strapped to an arm or leg, and the app controls music, which plays or stops based on the quality and synchronization of the patient's stride length, arm swing, and other factors. The system was featured in a YouTube video posted by the University of Calgary in May.
The app-assisted exercise focuses on areas of the brain that respond to reward-based learning, and patients tend to find that walking exercises become more pleasurable, according to Amulosono developer Bin Hu, MD, PhD. A University of Calgary pilot study of the system cites marked improvement in average daily walking time (from 6.3. minutes to 20.4 minutes) and 10% -30% improvements in stride length and walking speed. The study involved 46 patients who used the system for 320 days.
PTs also can use the system to assess PD patients, which may be particularly useful in incorporating coordination evaluations with evaluations of gait and freezing. The system is under study at 4 trial sites in Canada.
PTs and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are on the front lines of care of patients with PD. APTA has highlighted the PT's role in PD and created a guide at its Move Forward website. An APTA video released in spring of 2013 highlights the ways in which PTs can help patients with PD improve their symptoms.
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