Improving strength in older adults during periods of restricted weight-bearing
For older adults, being confined to bed due to a serious trauma can quickly lead to reduced muscle strength and function.
An innovative new study at Community and Oral Health is looking at ways we can reduce the impact of strength loss in older adults who are not allowed to fully weight bear early after suffering a broken bone.
Community and Oral Health Senior Physiotherapist Dr Ann Rahmann said for older adults there were possible strategies that may reduce the effects of immobilization and improve health care outcomes.
“One of these techniques is motor imagery where the person imagines themselves doing an activity like standing up or walking,” she said.
“Motor imagery is regularly used by sportspeople to train and condition the brain, for example a golfer will mentally rehearse the swing he will use to hit a drive without actually performing the swing.
“Research has shown that motor imagery techniques are useful for improving the performance of athletes, or recovery of people who have suffered strokes, spinal cord injury or Parkinson’s disease.”
The Motor imagery in older adults trial will be undertaken at both the Brighton Health Campus and the Residential Transition Care unit at Zillmere.
“Motor imagery will be added to standard physiotherapy care to see if it improves strength in subacute rehabilitation patients during the restricted weight bearing period,” Dr Rahmann said.
“Around 100 subacute patients aged 65 years or more with restricted weight bearing conditions will be recruited for the study over the next two years.”
Participants will be allocated to either the standard physiotherapy (Control) or standard physiotherapy plus motor imagery (Experimental) group, with participants in the motor imagery group undertaking motor imagery training using narrated videos on an iPad for 15 minutes each day for four weeks.
Dr Rahmann anticipated that participants in the experimental group would maintain better muscle strength than those in the control group.
“The significance of this research is its potential to minimise the loss of strength in older adults and influence clinical practice within the gerontology and rehabilitation setting,” she said.
The trial is a partnership between Community and Oral Health and the Australian Catholic University, involving co-investigators Dr Ann Rahmann from the Brighton Rehabilitation Unit and Dr Vaughan Nicholson from the Discipline of Physiotherapy.
Community and Oral Health is also delivering 34 research trials and activities in the areas of pressure injuries, social inclusion for the elderly, nutrition, speech therapies, and physiotherapy.