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Deliberately Light Interpersonal Touch as an Aid to Balance Control in Neurologic Conditions

Johannsen, Leif PhD1,2; McKenzie, Evelyn MRES2; Brown, Melanie PhD3; Redfern, Mark S. PhD4; Wing, Alan M. PhD2

doi: 10.1002/rnj.197
Continuing Education

Purpose: We aimed to quantify the benefit of externally provided deliberately light interpersonal touch (IPT) on body sway in neurological patients.

Design: IPT effect on sway was assessed experimentally across differing contacting conditions in a group of 12 patients with Parkinson’s disease and a group of 11 patients with chronic hemiparetic stroke.

Methods: A pressure plate recorded sway when IPT was provided by a healthcare professional at various locations on a patient’s back.

Findings: IPT on the back reduced anteroposterior body sway in both groups. Numerically, IPT was more effective when applied more superior on the back, specifically at shoulder level, and when applied at two contact locations simultaneously.

Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate the benefit of deliberately light IPT on the back to facilitate patients’ postural stability.

Clinical Relevance: Deliberately light IPT resembles a manual handling strategy, which minimizes load imposed on healthcare professionals when providing balance support, while it facilitates patients’ own sensorimotor control of body balance during standing.

1 Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany

2 Behavioural Brain Sciences Centre, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

3 National Institute of Conductive Education, Birmingham, UK

4 Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Correspondence: Dr. Leif Johannsen, Human Movement Science, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Technische Universität München, Campus D, Georg-Brauchle-Ring 60/62 München 80992, Germany. E-mail:

Accepted October 25, 2014.

Cite this article as: Johannsen, L., McKenzie, E., Brown, M., Redfern, M. S., & Wing, A. M. (2017). Deliberately light interpersonal touch as an aid to balance control in neurologic conditions. Rehabilitation Nursing, 42(3), 131–138. doi:10.1002/rnj.197

© 2017 Association of Rehabilitation Nurses.
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