Objective: To determine whether a single trial of interferential current therapy (ICT) can immediately alleviate spasticity and improve balance and gait performance in patients with chronic stroke.
Design: Randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Setting: Inpatient rehabilitation in a local center.
Subjects: A total of 42 adult patients with chronic stroke with plantar flexor spasticity of the lower limb.
Intervention: The ICT group received a single 60-minute ICT stimulation of the gastrocnemius in conjunction with air-pump massage. In the placebo-ICT group, electrodes were placed and air-pump massage performed without electrical stimulation.
Main measures: After a single ICT application, spasticity was measured immediately using the Modified Ashworth Scale (MAS), and balance and functional gait performance were assessed using the following clinical tools: Functional Reach Test (FRT), Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Timed Up and Go Test (TUG), and 10-m Walk Test (10MWT).
Results: Gastrocnemius spasticity significantly decreased in the ICT group than in the placebo-ICT group (MAS: ICT vs placebo-ICT: 1.55±0.76 vs 0.40±0.50). The ICT group showed significantly greater improvement in balance and gait abilities than the placebo-ICT group (FRT: 2.62±1.21 vs 0.61±1.34, BBS: 1.75±1.52 vs 0.40±0.88, TUG: 6.07±6.11 vs 1.68±2.39, 10MWT: 7.02±7.02 vs 1.96±3.13). Spasticity correlated significantly with balance and gait abilities (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: A single trial of ICT is a useful intervention for immediately improving spasticity, balance, and gait abilities in chronic stroke patients, but not for long-term effects. Further study on the effects of repeated ICT is needed.
Keywords: Stroke; balance; gait; interferential current therapy (ICT); spasticity.
© The Author(s) 2014.