For many of us with peripheral neuropathy the deterioration of the peripheral nerves results in muscles those nerves are meant to serve becoming weakened or atrophied. The circulation of blood to these areas becomes poor and the nerves in the hands and feet do not receive what they need to heal, stay healthy or at least not get worse. As one thing leads to the next the weakened nerves, muscles and other structures result in balance issues, edema, falls, sprains, skin ulcers and so on and so on.
The good news – geko™: an electronic stimulation for increasing blood flow
The geko™ device is muscle pump activator technology that is becoming popular in Canada. This device provides a small electrical impulse to a nerve behind the knee that stimulates the calf and foot muscle pump resulting in an increase in blood flow back to the heart. The geko™ device generates 60% of the blood flow1 benefits of walking. It does this by activating the foot and lower leg muscles to help pump blood through the veins (up out of the legs and back to the heart), also improving blood flow through the arteries and to the skin and wound through the micro-circulation.
This device won an Ontario Association of Long Term Care award in Ontario in 2016 for: Best new long-term care product or service of the year for its work in partnering with Revera3.
This is the same technology is used to support professional and Olympic athletes to recover faster, relieve muscle soreness and reduce swelling.
geko™ Case Studies & Potential use for Neuropathy
This device was developed to prevent deep vein thrombosis on long haul flights. In Canada, Perfuse Medtec Inc. (the exclusive Canadian distributor) is using the geko™ Wound Therapy device to help speed healing of venous leg and diabetic foot ulcers as well as reduce or eliminate edema before and after surgery. A number of case studies are available on the www.gekowound.ca website including a case study on the healing of a diabetic foot ulcer. Warning: some of the wound pictures in these case studies are graphic.
According to Dr. James Haxton, who works with members of the Calgary Neuropathy Association, anything that improves blood flow to the nerves has the potential to improve nerve health and neuropathy. While there are no studies yet on its effectiveness on neuropathy symptoms it is likely that, similar to other forms of neuromuscular electrostimulation, it will relieve symptoms and in some cases, improve function. The advantage this device seems to provide is that it is attached and worn for up to 6 hours a day for as many days as needed providing consistent longer-term stimulation.
Those who may benefit from a geko™
“The geko™ device may be used by anyone who might benefit from increased, lower limb circulation and a reduction of blood stasis.”2 They also suggest that it is appropriate if you have limited mobility or suffer from edema in your legs or feet that is adding to your pain.
How it feels
The geko™ is attached to the leg, just below the knee. It is attached with sticky gel and is about the size of a small wrist watch. It is easily hidden under any clothes. When the geko™ device is in place and working it feels like a light tapping on the leg. There is a slightly visible contraction of the calf and the foot may move out and up a few centimeters. This is how a patient knows it is working.
How to obtain a geko™
The geko™ is currently only available for use by patients with a foot ulcer or other wound and has not been approved by all health regions. The Ontario Health Region is the only region that has it approved, usually in a long-term care or post-operative situation. Its “off-label” use has potential to help neuropathy sufferers as people who have used it for wounds often report they feel sensation in their feet where none has been for a long time. You can be directed to your local representative by using the contact information below. It is hoped that more health regions in Canada and the US will look more closely at this device if patients start asking their doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals about it.
For more information go to www.gekowound.ca
To order geko™ devices: 1.888.244.5579
Tucker AT et al. Int J Angiol, 2010 Spring; 19(1)” e31-e37
Linda is an independent information technology business analyst and Vice President of the CNA.