In a recent publication in Clinical Biomechanics, a study led by researchers from the University of Nebraska Omaha delved into the challenges faced by patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (DM) when using walking aids for mobility due to diabetic foot ulcers. The aim was to alleviate the undue stress on the hands, which is a common downside of using conventional walking aids like crutches and walkers.
The study involved 20 participants (12 females, 8 males) with an average age of 61 years, who were instructed to walk a distance of up to 200 meters with and without the aid of crutches, walkers, and a wheeled knee walker (WKW). The WKW, in particular, has been designed to offload body weight through not just the hands, but also the shin and knee of the affected limb. This design advantage was hypothesized to result in lesser hand loading, thereby reducing the risk of crutch palsy – a condition brought on by excessive weight bearing on the hands, leading to nerve compression in the upper arm and hand.
The results were promising. The WKW significantly reduced hand loading by 94% compared to both crutches and walkers. Additionally, participants reported 45% lower exertion while using the WKW and rated its usability 106% higher than the other aids. This remarkable reduction in hand loading and perceived exertion, coupled with a spike in usability scores, underscores the potential of the WKW as a superior alternative for assisted walking among Type 2 DM patients.
Furthermore, the authors suggest that the WKW could be a preferred choice for total unilateral offloading, a critical measure to promote ulcer healing. This is primarily due to the reduced demand it places on the hands, its lower exertion profile, and higher usability compared to traditional walking aids.
This study not only shines a light on the importance of ergonomic design in medical aids but also sets a precedent for further research aimed at enhancing patient compliance and comfort. By addressing the common discomforts and risks associated with walking aids, this research takes a significant stride towards improving the quality of life for individuals with Type 2 DM facing mobility challenges due to diabetic foot ulcers.