Annually, over 12 million people are affected by spasticity. Every year to recognise this condition, Global Spasticity Awareness week is observed from June 17th to 24th. Anyone experiencing cerebral palsy, stroke, spinal cord injuries, acquired brain damage or any motor neuron disorder can relate with how spasticity compromises the quality of life. Spasticity presents as involuntary muscle movements because of a loss of muscle reflex inhibition. Data indicates that 75% of individuals with Cerebral Palsy, 43% of Stroke Patients, 66% with Multiple Sclerosis and 40% who suffered Spinal Cord injury are reported to experience spasticity.
Spasticity can be managed with medication, surgical interventions and alternative therapies. Although a number management options are available for spasticity, many have unpleasant side-effects. For example, pharmacological options can cause many systemic adverse effects such as confusion and dizziness, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal upsets and liver toxicity to name a few. The most common neurosurgical procedure used to treat spasticity is Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR). There are several risks involved with this procedure and many complications such as wound infections, sensory loss and leg and bladder paralysis. Other surgical interventions like serial casting can result in ongoing pain and interferes with skin health.
While alternative therapies have been around for many years, only a few have proven to achieve the desirable outcomes. Most therapies are ongoing for patients and show steady results with little or no side effects. These therapies include task related training and electrical stimulation. The literature suggests that low frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) rehabilitation is very beneficial for individuals with spasticity. An assessment of TENS with other spasticity interventions proposes that TENS has similar or even better effects than Baclofen which is a muscle relaxant drug. The same was observed for physical therapies compared with TENS.
A unique rehabilitative device is becoming popular among the family of TENS related products. The Mollii suit was produced in Sweden by Inerventions and provides electrical stimulation through a functional garment. The garment consists of a pair of trousers, a jacket and a detachable control unit which sends electrical signals to the user’s nervous system via electrodes embedded inside the garment. The control unit is individually programmed for each user based on their needs and goals.
The product has been in use across Europe at various rehabilitation centres since 2012. The Mollii suit was first introduced in Australia in 2017 and is gaining successful traction since. Some refer to the suit as “The Happy Suit” or “The Super Suit”. There are many benefits such instant results, prolonged therapeutic residual effects, affordability, can be used in the comfort of the user’s home or work place, no undesirable effects, can be used with current treatment regimes. The suit allows the guardians and wearer to enjoy a better quality of life.