A study in Germany has found that a treatment in which whole-body vibration is alternated with intensive rehabilitation work has had a major impact in lessening the symptoms of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) types two and three in children.
The programme, called Auf die Beine (stand up) was tested on 38 patients at the University Hospital Cologne, with the sample group having an average age of 4.64. The treatment was carried out over a period of several months, with in-patient stays of 13 and six days respectively either side of six months at home.
Each vibration session lasted about three minutes, produced by a surface on which each patient would lie in a supine posture.
According to the results of the study, the combination of regular neuromuscular interval rehabilitation combined with the vibration technique helped halt the progressive loss of muscle strength associated with SMA.
It revealed that 72.7 per cent of the 11 children treated after 2011 saw at least a two-point improvement in function on the Hammersmith Functional Mobility Scale.
Vibrating the muscles helps by inducing reflexive muscle contractions, which produces positive feedback and strengthens the muscles. This supplements existing physio and thus is more effective in strengthening them.
The study was titled "Vibration-Assisted Home Training Program for Children With Spinal Muscular Atrophy" and published in the journal Child Neurology Open.
In their conclusions, the researchers wrote: "The results of our uncontrolled retrospective observation of the neuromuscular treatment program Auf die Beine … indicate significant improvement in mobility.
"Further improvement after active training can indicate better mobility in daily living and permanent repetition of the neuromuscular circuit once a better mobility level has been established after intensive training."
However, they acknowledged, further study is required to establish if the treatment has long-term health benefits for SMA sufferers.
The condition, which gradually reduces muscle strength and motor function, affects about one in 10,000 people.
Written by Matthew Horton
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