A James Cook University researcher is experimenting with a new technique to treat a painful, debilitating disease that affects hundreds of thousands of Australians.
Darci Cousins, an exercise physiology honours student at JCU, will investigate using electrical stimulation to treat the pain of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).
She said the chronic condition results from a narrowing of the arteries, primarily in the legs.
“The prevalence of the disease is expected to double by 2040 due to the population ageing. It currently affects about 10% of adults aged 50 years and older who experience severe pain when walking that limits their day-to-day activity and mobility.
“Ultimately many sacrifice hobbies, social activities, jobs and a great deal of independence as a result of PAD,” she said.
Ms Cousins said that regular activity or exercise is highly recommended to manage the condition, but is rarely undertaken due to the severe leg pain.
“Treatments that manage this pain are lacking and likely to be crucial to help PAD patients. What we’re going to be doing is to ask PAD sufferers to undertake a bout of walking, once a week for three consecutive weeks, while either wearing or not wearing a portable machine that produces a small electrical stimulus to the legs.
“We hope this electrical stimulation will manage the level of pain experienced by sufferers and assist their walking.”
Ms Cousins said patients experience a very slight tingling or ‘pins and needles’ sensation during the treatment.
“PAD patients are at about three times higher risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, compared to those without PAD. So we’re hoping this therapy may assist them to undertake daily activities pain-free and improve their overall activity levels for better disease management and long-term health,” she said.
The research project is underway and expected to be completed in 2019.