A new wearable device may be a safe and effective way to reduce resting tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The technology, which sends vibrations when placed on the ankle or wrist, sends signals the brain to disrupt rhythms that cause tremors. This could be a promising new therapy, potentially eliminating the need for continuous medication or surgery, which are the current treatment options for reducing tremors in this patient population.
The study shows that most patients who wore the technology for a short time had a reduction in tremors while receiving the vibrating pulses. The device also had no adverse effects—it was safe and well tolerated. While the technology did not have a lasting effect after patients stopped receiving the pulse, it did reduce tremors as vibrating pulses were delivered, regardless of the strength or pattern of vibration.
Resting tremor is a cardinal symptom of Parkinson’s disease that contributes to the physical, emotional, and economic burden of the disease. Patients have few options for managing the severity of their symptoms. Using vibrating pulse is a technique that has been discussed for decades as a possible remedy, however no concrete research has been executed to look into the effects of this on patients with Parkinson’s disease. This study is the first to evaluate the safety and efficacy of wearable technology for resting tremors in this specific patient population. With further research, the technique could lead to a future noninvasive treatment option.
Researchers conducted the study at the Abilities Research Center—part of Mount Sinai’s Department of Rehabilitation and Human Performance. They analyzed 44 patients with Parkinson’s disease, all with some degree of resting tremors. Each participated in two sessions within a two-week time frame while wearing the device. They received different degrees of vibrating pulses (including levels of intensity and vibration patterns) in 10-minute sessions. Investigators recorded tremors at baseline and for the duration of the applied technology.
“In any safety and feasibility trial, we hope to show that the technology is safe and well tolerated by the target population. In this study, in addition to confirming the safety and feasibility of the technology, we were excited to see early signs that the technology may also be effective in reducing tremors in some patients with Parkinson’s disease. This is a very promising and novel potential therapy,” says Dr. Putrino. “We hope this study will prompt larger controlled studies to investigate this technology. The next step is to pursue a large placebo-controlled clinical trial to ensure effects are authentic and real.”