Does Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation Improve Recovery Following Acute Ankle Sprain? A Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial
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Aim: Following soft tissue ankle injury, patients are often referred for out-patient physiotherapy and present symptoms including pain, reduced range of movement and function, and oedema. In this study, we assess the use of a neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) device as an adjunctive therapy to reduce oedema in patients recovering from grade I and II ankle sprains. Methods: This was a single-centre, pilot randomised controlled study, recruiting patients referred to physiotherapy following an ankle sprain. Participants presenting with oedema were randomised to one of two treatment groups: (1) the current standard of care and (2) the current standard of care plus NMES use. Participants were identified in an emergency department and referred to a physiotherapy department for treatment 1 to 5 days following the injury and returned to clinic 7 days later. Results: Twenty-two participants completed the study and had full data sets for analysis (11 in each group). Mean volumetric displacement was reduced in the intervention group in comparison to the standard care group (P = .011); however, there were no between-group differences in figure of eight measurements, function or pain scores. The device was well tolerated, with no device-related adverse events recorded. Conclusions: In this pilot, randomised controlled trial, NMES was well tolerated by patients following ankle sprain and demonstrated statistically significant improvements in oedema reduction as measured by fluid displacement. No other changes were observed. Further work will need to confirm the clinical significance and effect on longer term recovery post-ankle sprain.