Interactive sensor-based balance training in older cancer patients with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy: A randomized controlled trial

Michael Schwenk, Gurtej S. Grewal, Dustin Holloway, Amy Muchna, Linda Garland, Bijan Najafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Background: Cancer patients with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) have deficits in sensory and motor skills leading to inappropriate proprioceptive feedback, impaired postural control, and fall risk. Balance training programs specifically developed for CIPN patients are lacking. Objective: This pilot study investigated the effect of an interactive motor adaptation balance training program based on wearable sensors for improving balance in older cancer patients with CIPN. Methods: Twenty-two patients (age: 70.3 ± 8.7 years) with objectively confirmed CIPN [vibration perception threshold (VPT) >25 V] were randomized to either an intervention (IG) or a control (CG) group. The IG received interactive game-based balance training including repetitive weight shifting and virtual obstacle crossing tasks. Wearable sensors provided real-time visual/auditory feedback from the lower limb trajectory and allowed the perception of motor errors during each motor action. The CG received no exercise intervention and continued their normal activity. Outcome measures were changes in sway of ankle, hip, and center of mass (CoM) in both mediolateral and anteroposterior (AP) directions during 30-second balance tests with increasing task difficulty [i.e. standing in feet-closed position with eyes open (EO) and eyes closed (EC), and in semi-tandem position with EO] at baseline and after the intervention. Additionally, gait performance (speed, variability) and fear of falling [Falls Efficacy Scale-International (FES-I)] were measured. Results: Training was safe despite the participants' impaired health status, great severity of CIPN (VPT 49.6 ± 26.7 V), and great fear of falling (FES-I score 31.37 ± 11.20). After the intervention, sway of hip, ankle, and CoM was significantly reduced in the IG compared to the CG while standing in feet-closed position with EO (p = 0.010-0.022, except AP CoM sway) and in semi-tandem position (p = 0.008-0.035, except ankle sway). No significant effects were found for balance with EC, gait speed, and FES-I score (p > 0.05). Conclusions: This proof-of-concept study demonstrates that older cancer patients with CIPN can significantly improve their postural balance with specifically tailored, sensor-based exercise training. The training approach has potential as a therapy for improving CIPN-related postural control deficits. However, future studies comparing the proposed technology-based training with traditional balance training are required to evaluate the benefit of the interactive joint movement feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-563
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Exercise training
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Postural balance
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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