Effects of partial body weight support on dual-task walking in older adults with multiple sclerosis
Individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience gait impairments, particularly while dual-tasking, that contribute to an increased risk of falls. Because falls negatively impact participation and quality of life, it is essential to examine how to improve dual-tasking gait. However, no studies, to date, have examined how gait variability is affected by partial body weight support (PBWS) while dual-tasking in older adults with MS. This study examined how PBWS can affect dual-tasking gait variability in older adults with MS and age-matched healthy older adults (HOA). Twenty individuals from each group underwent a dual-tasking paradigm under PBWS and no body weight support (NBWS) while recording gait variability measures. Under PBWS, older adults with MS exhibited significantly greater decreases in gait variability measurements (i.e. smaller coefficient of variation for step width and stride time) when compared with HOA and NBWS. These study findings suggest that PBWS can assist with dual-tasking gait variability and may serve as a therapeutic tool for clinicians and rehabilitation specialists for improving dual-task ability and potentially decreasing fall risk. This study was the first to investigate the effects of dual-tasking under PBWS on gait variability measures in older adults with MS and age-matched controls.