Anna O'Connor, MyGait
Innovative stimulation cuff provides solution to Multiple Sclerosis drop foot symptom
Anna O’Connor, a 56 year old from Midleton in Cork, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2000. One of her symptoms was foot drop, a condition caused by weakness in the leg muscles that help move the ankle. This weakness resulted in her right foot scuffing the ground at each step. As an active individual she was devastated that her mobility had suffered and her love of walking and gardening would be affected. She has since become the first patient in Ireland to be fitted with MyGait, an advanced Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) device by mobility experts Ottobock, which has allowed her to regain some of her activity levels and restored her confidence.
Anna is a decorative painter, creating murals that required her to use ladders and scaffolding. She first noticed symptoms when she was out walking with a friend and her right foot was scuffing the ground. Following the diagnosis her confidence was shaken as she could no longer work at the job she loved. Simple tasks such as shopping were now difficult as her mobility deteriorated.
“I love spending time outdoors, going for walks and being in the garden, and had recently learnt to ski when I got the news,” explains Anna. “Following my diagnosis, I became very conscience of my physical self and gradually my foot-drop became more and more significant. It made everyday tasks more difficult and I felt I did not want to go out as much. I began to use hill-walking sticks to help my balance.”
Anna found out about Functional Electrical Stimulation from the MS Society of Ireland, and was intrigued as to how it could help her. She visited Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital in Dublin where she undertook a FES trial. The pioneering device works by applying small electrical impulses to the nerves in the affected muscles, with the nerve then stimulating the muscle into movement, lifting the foot from the ground at each step. A unique advantage of Ottobock’s MyGait is that more than one muscle group can also be stimulated using a second channel. This makes it possible to provide additional support when walking.
“MS disrupts the neural communication to the muscles, causing weakness,” states Lynn Vale, clinical specialist at Ottobock. “People with MS that suffer with foot drop are more vulnerable to tripping and falling. Walking also uses more energy and people may alter their gait to compensate, commonly lifting their leg higher and swinging it to the side. In Anna’s case, FES was the perfect solution. She has adapted to it with ease and you can see the confidence it has given her to get back out there and enjoy life.”
Anna continued, “When I was first fitted with the MyGait system, my foot twitched, then it raised - I was amazed how easy it was to use. I couldn’t believe there was something out there that could help me; it was a real starting point to becoming active again.”
Anna adds, “Ottobock have been terrific throughout the process; the team have given me great advice and been there for me along the journey. The MyGait system just makes sense to anybody suffering from drop foot like me. MS has taken a lot from me, but I won’t let it defeat me. Gaining some of my mobility back means the world to me.”
MyGait is a surface stimulator, acting on your nerves via electrodes placed on your skin to transform the way you walk.
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) via MyGait lifts the foot at just the right time in the gait cycle, correcting your drop foot and making walking faster and more efficient.
A small switch you wear under your heel sends a wireless signal to the stimulator worn on a cuff just below your knee. The stimulator can then activate the muscles responsible for lifting your foot. This can result in an improved and more natural gait, reducing the risk of falls.
As a bonus, your lower leg muscles are exercised with MyGait, and they can get stronger, which can also make walking easier.
A special feature of MyGait is that, in addition to the dorsiflexor muscles in your leg, another muscle group can be stimulated, making it possible to give additional support for walking at, for example, the knee or hip controlling muscles.
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