A Device That Helps People With Neuropathy Restore Balance And Mobility

Because it is Peripheral Neuropathy Awareness Week (May 7-13), this article is about a device people with neuropathy may not be aware of—a device that could help them walk more securely.

The Problem

To step securely the brain needs input from our eyes, memory, sense of balance, and the nerves in our feet. With peripheral neuropathy (PN), sensation in our feet may be diminished or lost, so the brain doesn't receive all the information required for confident, safe walking.

With our ability to walk impaired, there is increased risk for falling, and for the development of sores and ulcers. To help alleviate these problems the WalkJoy - a medical biofeedback device that is placed around each knee - was created.

A Solution

The WalkJoy, cleared by the FDA, serves as a substitute for damaged nerves in the feet. As a person walks, the device sends vibrations at each heel strike to healthy nerves just below the knees. These nerves, unaffected by PN, transfer information directly to the brain, replacing the lost foot-generated signals.

The nerve messages created by WalkJoy reportedly allow the brain to react as if sensation in the feet were normal, enhancing the body’s sense of movement and position. New users generally notice balance, and gait improvements after taking only 50 steps with the device. After a few weeks, they typically enjoy increased activity levels and renewed strength.

Each device houses a tiny computer with sensors that determine the velocity and angle of leg movements and can measure walking improvements. It stores this information so it can be shared with a doctor or therapist who can then provide patients with printed reports.

WalkJoys work quietly, and though users are aware of its knee vibrations at first, they report the sensation becomes familiar and hardly noticeable with continued use.

More Stable and In Control

Becoming more sedentary because of PN can start a cascade of problems including muscle weakness, diminished range of motion, decreased bone density, and less independent mobility, increasing the chances of isolation, pressure sores, and falling.

So, while the WalkJoy may not help everyone wax more mobile, giving it a try is worth considering—and it’s “free” in two ways. First, the device is worn externally and is drug-free. Second, it’s available for a free 10-day trial.

What a difference they make!  I wear the WalkJoy units nearly full time.  When walking I am able to increase my stride and speed, and I feel more stable and in control. I walk several miles a day for exercise, and my neighbors have commented on my improved mobility. ~ Lee M., an 80-year-old WalkJoy user

The WalkJoy does require a prescription and only helps individuals who still have feeling just beneath their knees. The device does not alleviate pain and is not suitable for neuropathy owed to spinal cord injury. For more information visit the website (link below), or call 855-WALKJOY (925-5569).

Sources: Foundation For Peripheral Neuropathy, WalkJoy
Photo: Pexels

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