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Vibrating Insoles could Help Balance

Researchers say vibrating insoles can jumpstart the nervous system into action. A new study looked at the use of the //insoles to help people maintain better balance. They proved most effective in elderly people -- a group who can benefit most from better balance and reduce the number of falls and bone fractures.

Researchers tested the insoles on 15 young people and 12 older people. The theory is small vibrations should stimulate the sensory system and therefore help to maintain proper balance. Doctors say the nervous system deteriorates with age and affects posture and balance.

In the study, the participants were asked to stand quietly on vibrating gel insoles. Video cameras measured the amount they swayed. The researchers note elderly participants showed greater improvement than their younger counterparts.Young participants might have almost optimum sensory feedback and balance control compared with elderly patients, who often have lateral postural instability and raised sensory feedback thresholds.

A recent study found the over 74 age group were 11-times more likely to be hospitalized after a fall compared to those ages 60 to 64. That study also found falls cost the National Healthcare System in the United Kingdom more than $1.5 billion.

Thus researchers say noise-based devices such as the randomly vibrating insoles may eventually help elderly people walk with better balance. This would be an important advance if it could reduce the number of falls.

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