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Research:      ‘The impact of ankle-foot orthoses on balance– A pilot study’
                         S. Glasser, R. Collings, J.Paton, J. Marsden

Optimal balance requires the integration of visual, vestibular (inner ear) and somatosensory (muscle and joint) information within the central nervous system to produce appropriate balance responses.

In diabetes many of the processes in the control of balance can be affected. Vision, for example, can be affected by retinopathy and cataracts, the vestibular system through damage of the small blood vessels, and the somatosensory system which can be affected by damaged nerves reducing sensation at the foot and ankle, a major factor contributing to falls.​                                         

                                                   The impact of dysfunction to the somatosensory system on postural stability and falls risk has received most research attention, however the most effective intervention for the management of balance dysfunction in DPN is still open to debate.

A device known as an Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO) has previously been found to provide mechanical stability,   however it is not known whether an AFO could be used to promote the use of other sensory inputs from the     somatosensory system, such as the hips, a possible advantage for those with  numb feet!

This pilot study therefore explores the effect of stabilising the ankle joint with an AFO in healthy subjects. Knowledge gained from this will lead to further exploratory work into the implications of their use in clinical applications for people with Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN).

Status: Paper under review