Effectiveness of Somatosensory Stimulation for the Lower Limb and Foot to Improve Balance and Gait After Stroke: A Systematic Review

SOURCE: Brain Sciences. 12(8) (no pagination), 2022. Article Number: 1102.


AUTHORS: Aries A.M.; Downing P.; Sim J.; Hunter S.M.

ABSTRACT: This systematic review’s purpose was to evaluate the effectiveness of lower-limb and foot somatosensory stimulation to improve balance and gait post-stroke. PRISMA reporting guidelines were followed. Included studies: randomized controlled trials (RCTs), published in English with ethical approval statement. Studies of conditions other than stroke, functional electrical stimulation, and interventions eliciting muscle contraction, were excluded. AgeLine, AMED, CINAHL PLUS, EMBASE, EMCARE MEDLINE, PEDro, PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO, SPORTDiscus, Web of Science and Cochrane central register of controlled trials were searched from 1 January 2002 to 31
March 2022. Two authors independently screened results, extracted data and assessed study quality using Cochrane Risk of Bias 2 tool; 16 RCTs (n = 638) were included. Four studies showed a medium or large standardized between-group effect size (Cohen’s d) in favor of somatosensory
stimulation, in relation to: customized insoles (d = 0.527), taping (d = 0.687), and electrical stimulation (two studies: d = 0.690 and d = 1.984). Although limited by study quality and heterogeneity of interventions and outcomes, with only one study’s results statistically significant, several interventions showed potential for benefit, exceeding the minimally important difference for gait speed. Further research with larger trials is required. This unfunded systematic review was registered with PROSPERO (number CRD42022321199).