When the Beach Boys sang about good vibrations, this wasn’t what they had in mind, but it does come pretty close. Researchers at the University of Delaware STAR Campus have created a vibrating shoe that helps patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Where did the idea come from? UD Parkinson’s Clinic director Ingrid Pretzer-Aboff has been working on creating new methods for Parkinson’s care with her team. One of her colleagues, Dr. Madhuri Behari, hosted some of UD’s studies at her lab at New Delhi’s All India Institutes of Medical Sciences. Study participants mentioned that they were walking better in the lab than they were outside the lab. The study team tried to figure out why, and they narrowed it down to patients who were taking the train.
The conclusion: the trains’ vibrations actually had healing qualities for these patients. “They decided, let’s try vibration on the foot to see if people can walk better,” said Pretzer-Aboff. That’s when the idea for the PD Shoe was born.
There have been a couple of versions of the shoe but they all have something in common, they all vibrate to help with the tremors associated with Parkinson’s. The first version was a synchronized step model, it vibrated when the heel or the toes of the foot hit the ground. The second version will have an on/off switch and the capability of being plugged into a charger at home, like an iPad or a cellphone.
“There were no Parkinson’s specialists in the State of Delaware, at least there weren’t when the research started,” said Michael Smith, the director of strategic initiatives at UD’s College of Health Sciences. “There’s a huge need for that. … We work in partnership with specialists from the University of Rochester and Rutgers University.”
So far, 30 individuals have tested the PD Shoe.
“With about 60,000 people being diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year it’s definitely something that would have a demand and a market,” said Smith, who’s interested in possibly partnering with major sport-shoe manufacturers.
Pretzer-Aboff says the goal with this product and others is to keep the patient independent for as long as possible.
The PD Shoe is one of many treatment methods the Parkinson’s Clinic is in the early stages of offering. Other services include speech therapy, support groups and access to telemedicine.
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