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Gait Posture. 2014 Jun;40(2):291-6. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.04.186. Epub 2014 Apr 18.

Improved postural control in response to a 4-week balance training with partially unloaded bodyweight.

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Department of Sport and Sport Science, University of Freiburg, Germany. Electronic address:
Department of Sport and Sport Science, University of Freiburg, Germany.


Balance training (BT) is successfully implemented in therapy as a countermeasure against postural dysfunctions. However, patients suffering from motor impairments may not be able to perform balance rehabilitation with full body load. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether partial unloading leads to the same functional and neuromuscular adaptations. The impact on postural control of a 4-week BT intervention has been compared between full and partial body load. 32 subjects were randomly assigned to a CON (conventional BT) or a PART group (partially unloaded BT). BT comprised balance exercises addressing dynamic stabilization in mono- and bipedal stance. Before and after training, centre of pressure (COP) displacement and electromyographic activity of selected muscles were monitored during different balance tasks. Co-contraction index (CCI) of soleus (SOL)/tibialis (TA) was calculated. SOL H-reflexes were elicited to evaluate changes in the excitability of the spinal reflex circuitry. Adaptations in response to the training were in a similar extent for both groups: (i) after the intervention, the COP displacement was reduced (P<0.05). This reduction was accompanied by (ii) a decreased CCI of SOL/TA (P<0.05) and (iii) a decrease in H-reflex amplitude (P<0.05). BT under partial unloading led to reduced COP displacements comparable to conventional BT indicating improved balance control. Moreover, decreased co-contraction of antagonistic muscles and reduced spinal excitability of the SOL motoneuron pool point towards changed postural control strategies generally observed after full body load training. Thus, BT considering partial unloading is an appropriate alternative for patients unable to conduct BT under full body load.


H-reflex; Neuromuscular; Partial weight-bearing; Rehabilitation; Sensorimotor training

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