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Background: Postural instability (PI) is a common and serious problem in Parkinson's disease (PD). Dopaminergic medication is of negligible use and a positive effect of deep brain stimulation on this issue has not been reported.
Objective: To develop a method of repetitive training of compensatory steps to enhance protective postural responses by using training strategies based on recent neurophysiological research.
Methods: Fourteen patients with PD took part in a multiple baseline design study and were trained for 14 days in an ambulant setting consisting of two daily sessions.
Results: After training, the length of compensatory steps increased and the step initiation shortened. In a gait analysis, the cadence and the step length increased, gait velocity improved, and the period of double support shortened. The "mobility" subscore of a quality of life questionnaire (PDQ-39) also improved. All these changes were significant (p < 0.05). These effects were stable for two months without additional training.
Conclusion: The repetitive training of compensatory steps is an effective approach in the treatment of PI and should be applied if PI is evident clinically or in a patient's history.