Impact of temperature on mobility

Keep the legs and feet warm


. . .

This in-depth study of 22 HSPers and 19 unaffected people found that, when the legs and feet are warm, the speed and strength of raising the toes at push off when walking was significantly higher than when cold. The speed of nerve conduction was also faster when warm and spasticity significantly decreased.



People with hereditary and spontaneous spastic paraparesis (HSSP) report that their legs are stiffer and walking is slower when their legs are cold.



This study explored the effects of prolonged superficial cooling and warming of the lower leg on walking speed and local measures of neuromuscular impairments.



This was a randomised pre- and post-intervention study of 22 HSSP participants and 19 matched healthy controls. On 2 separate occasions, one lower leg was cooled or warmed. Measurements included walking speed and measures of lower limb impairment: ankle movement, passive muscle stiffness, spasticity (stretch reflex size), amplitude and rate of force generation in dorsi- and plantarflexors and central and peripheral nerve conduction time/velocity.


increased power and speed at pushoff


For both participants and controls, cooling decreased walking speed, especially for HSSP participants. For both groups, cooling decreased the dorsiflexor rate and amplitude of force generation and peripheral nerve conduction velocity and increased spasticity.


Warming increased dorsiflexor rate of force generation and nerve conduction velocity and decreased spasticity.



Superficial cooling significantly reduced walking speed for people with HSSP. Temperature changes were associated with changes in neuromuscular impairments for both people with spastic paraparesis and controls. This study does not support the use of localised cooling in rehabilitation for people with spastic paraparesis as reported in other neurological conditions. Rehabilitation interventions that help prevent heat loss (insulation) or improve limb temperature via passive or active means, particularly when the legs and/or environment are cool, may benefit people with spastic paraparesis.


SOURCE: Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2016 Dec;59(5-6):326-332. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2016 Jun 1. PMID: 27262978 [PubMed – in process] Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.


Superficial warming and cooling of the leg affects walking speed and neuromuscular impairments in people with spastic paraparesis.


Denton A1, Bunn L2, Hough A2, Bugmann G3, Marsden J2.


1 School of Health Professions, Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, Plymouth University, Devon PL6 8BH, United Kingdom. Electronic address: [email protected].

2 School of Health Professions, Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, Plymouth University, Devon PL6 8BH, United Kingdom.

3 School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics, Faculty of Science and Engineering Plymouth University, Devon PL6 8BH, United Kingdom.

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