Background: Stimulation of lower limbs' cutaneous receptors and mechanoreceptors through compression garments could potentially increase somatosensory system efficiency and aid postural regulation in elderly individuals.
Research question: This study examined immediate effects of wearing knee length socks (KLS) of various compression levels on somatosensory function in community-dwelling healthy elderly men and women during a double-limb standing, balancing task.
Methods: A total of forty-six elderly participants (Male = 23), aged between 65 and 84 years old, randomly selected from the Singapore community-dwelling, healthy population. Three treatment interventions (wearing clinical compression socks; wearing non-clinical compression socks; wearing commercial socks) and one control condition (barefoot), in a counterbalanced order, were administered to participants while they performed a 30-s Romberg test, with four levels of performance difficulty: (1) standing on a stable surface with vision (SO); (2) a stable surface without vision (SC); (3) a foam surface with vision (FO); and (4), a foam surface without vision (FC).
Results: Results showed that immediate effects of applying KLS of various compression levels significantly reduced sway area, trace length, velocity, and anterior-posterior (AP) sway as compared to barefoot condition (control) during the FO task condition.
Significance: This finding indicates the positive immediate effects of garments on somatosensory system function and postural regulation in the elderly men and women, especially when standing on the unstable surface. Wearing compression KLS could be included as a viable intervention on top of other forms of balance training to reduce risk of falling in elderly people.
Keywords: Compression; Elderly individuals; Knee length socks; Postural regulation.
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