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Title:  Method for improving muscle control and muscle tone and improving sensory integration

United States Patent:  6,632,845

Issued:  October 14, 2003

Inventors:  Gassiraro; Diane M. (1303 Gerber Woods Dr., Edwardsville, IL 62025)

Assignee:  Gassiraro; Diane M. (Edwardsville, IL)

Appl. No.:  684258

Filed:  October 6, 2000

Abstract

A method for improving muscle control, muscle tone, and sensory integration of an individual by applying polyacrylamide gel to the skin overlying the target muscles. A reflex response by the muscles to the temperature of the polyacrylamide gel is desired which improves the individual's control of the muscle, the tone of the individual's muscles, and stimulates the central nervous system positively. Resistance can be optionally applied to the reflex response of the muscles, further reinforcing the treatment and promoting the individual to gain muscle control and improve muscle tone.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Among the objects of the invention, therefore, is the provision of methods for improving muscle control and for treating individuals suffering from hypotonic musculature using polyacrylamide gel. Also provided are techniques in which the stimulatory material, polyacrylamide gel, used in the treatment is readily available, convenient to use by medical professionals, easily cleaned up, and possesses a long useful life.

Briefly, therefore, the present invention is directed to a method for improving muscle control, muscle tone, and sensory integration of individuals lacking muscle control, muscle tone or who experience sensory processing delays. In the method of the present invention, polyacrylamide gel is applied to the individual's skin which overlays the muscle or muscles lacking muscle control and tone. After a short duration of time, the polyacrylamide gel is removed from the individual's skin.

Resistance optionally may be applied to the reflexive response of extremity muscles after polyacrylamide gel is applied to the individual's skin.

Other objects and features of this invention will be in part apparent to those skilled in the art and in part pointed out in the detailed description provided below.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention relates to a method of treating individuals lacking muscle control, muscle tone, and sensory integration. While prior art treatment methods have used brushes and ice to elicit a reflexive muscle response to sensory stimulation, the present invention uses polyacrylamide gel.

Medical professionals who typically visit patients in their homes, such as occupational and physical therapists, need treatment articles that can be easily prepared, stored, transported, and used as medical visits are made each day.

Polyacrylamide gel is a commercially available polymer that is used for a variety of purposes such as electrophoresis-based biochemical and genetic analytical procedures, decoration, and potting plants. Polyacrylamide gel is prepared by mixing acrylamide copolymer (polyacrylamide crystals) with water. The crystals, when fully hydrated, can hold over 400 times their weight in water. Once prepared, polyacrylamide gel may be kept at room temperature or chilled in a refrigerator, freezer, or cooler. The polyacrylamide gel can then be easily transported in a container throughout the day or for several days without significantly losing its effectiveness or water content.

The treatment method of the present invention uses polyacrylamide gel instead of ice or alternative substances to ice, such as chilled pudding or other food items, to elicit a reflexive response of a patient lacking muscle control and/or muscle tone. Polyacrylamide gel is applied over the skin surface of a patient to produce reflexive responses of underlying muscles. Preferably the polyacrylamide gel is spread across the skin in an amount resulting, in a depth of about one quarter of an inch of polyacrylamide gel on the skin surface. The high water content of the polyacrylamide gel causes an immediate cooling effect to the surface of the skin as the polyacrylamide gel is applied at a temperature that is cooler than an individual's body temperature. A cooling effect also occurs due to evaporation of water from the surface of the polyacrylamide gel that is applied to the skin. While polyacrylamide gel can be effectively used at room temperature, the sensory stimulation of muscles may be amplified by chilling the polyacrylamide gel prior to applying it to an inividual's skin. As the gel causes sensory stimulation of the skin and reflexive reaction of underlying muscles, the patient learns to gain muscle control. Muscle control becomes reinforced as the method is repeated over multiple visits or therapy sessions. The reflex response of muscles to the polyacrylamide gel sensory stimulation also improves the muscle tone and avoids the progression of muscle atrophy of an individual suffering from a hypotonia. After being applied, the polyacrylamide gel is left on the surface of the skin for a short period of time, preferably for approximately 45 seconds, more preferably about 30 seconds, after which the gel is simply and cleanly wiped off the surface of the patient's skin with a towel or cloth.

In addition to improving muscle control and tone, the method also provides sensory integration to individuals with sensory processing delays. The present invention causes an individual's brain to organize sensory information received from his or her body as polyacrylamide gel is applied to the surface of the skin. This enables the individual to interpret his or her environment correctly for appropriate response and behavior in environmental situations.

As polyacrylamide gel can be used at room temperature or at temperatures above freezing, the treatment of the present invention does not have the same level of noxious stimulation as occurs with icing a patient with ice. Thus, the treatment is not as uncomfortable for the patient. Furthermore, the muscles of the patient do not have the same rebound effect of becoming temporarily inhibited after approximately 30 seconds of treatment that occurs when ice is used. Thus, while polyacrylamide gel remains on the skin for 45 seconds or less in the preferred method, the method may still produce effective results without resulting in a rebound effect if the polyacrylamide gel remains on the skin for longer periods of time. It is therefore anticipated that polyacrylamide gel is superior to ice in that patient discomfort is minimized and therapy treatment time can be extended.

Polyacrylamide gel can also be used on the muscles of the extremities. In such a scenario, polyacrylamide gel is applied to skin of the extremity lacking muscle control and/or muscle tone as well as the skin of the opposite extremity if the problem is localized to one side. Once the polyacrylamide gel is applied, resistance may be applied to elicit the reflexive response of the underlying muscle to reinforce the muscle control learning process as well as expedite the improvement in muscle tone. This procedure can also be localized to either the upper or lower extremities, or any muscles of the body. After approximately 45 seconds, more preferably 30 seconds have elapsed, the polyacrylamide gel is removed by wiping it off with a towel, cloth, or the like.

The present invention solves the shortcomings of the prior art. Since polyacrylamide gel does not melt like ice, a medical professional is able to easily transport the polyacrylamide gel from house to house in a container or cooler without the gel losing its effectiveness as patients are treated during the day. The polyacrylamide gel may be prepared in advance of the medical visits by mixing water and polyacrylamide crystals and allowing the crystals to hydrate.

The consistency of the polyacrylamide gel varies from tacky to watery depending on the amount of water retained by the polyacrylamide crystals. The preferable consistency for the treatment of the present invention is one that is slightly tacky such that the polyacrylamide gel can stick to a patient's skin when it is applied while still retaining enough water to produce a cooling effect.

The preparation procedures may vary among the various polyacrylamide gel commercial products, but generally consists of simply mixing water with polyacrylamide crystals (acrylamide copolymer) and allowing the crystals to soak up the water over a period of a couple of hours. The polyacrylamide crystals are allowed to soak up enough water to produce a gel with a desired consistency. Once the desired consistency is attained, excess water may either be poured off, or the hydrated crystals can be placed in a strainer to allow the excess water to drain off of the polyacrylamide gel. The prepared polyacrylamide gel may then be optionally chilled in a refrigerator, freezer, or cooler. Once prepared, the polyacrylamide gel can be used immediately, stored or transported in a container to the various patients' houses. Storing the polyacrylamide gel in a sealed container slows the evaporation of water from the gel. Thus, a sealed container causes the polyacrylamide gel to retain its desired consistency over a longer period of time than when it is stored in an open container.

Polyacrylamide gel is also superior to using prior art substitutes to ice, such as chilled pudding or other food-based substitutes, as polyacrylamide gel can be cleanly and neatly removed by merely wiping the patient's skin with a cloth or towel. Unlike chilled pudding, polyacrylamide gel leaves no tacky residue on the surface after being wiped off. Furthermore, polyacrylamide gel, unlike chilled food-based substitutes which have limited shelf lives, can be reused simply by allowing the water to evaporate off the gel leaving polyacrylamide crystals (acrylamide copolymer). The crystals can then be stored until a later date when they can again be rehydrated and reused. Alternatively, as the consistency of the polyacrylamide gel becomes increasingly tacky as water retained in the polyacrylamide gel evaporates, water can simply be added to the gel to rehydrate the gel and regain the desired consistency.

In view of the above, it will be seen that the several objects of the invention are achieved.

As various changes could be made in the above methods without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

Claim 1 of 10 Claims

What is claimed is:

1. A method of improving muscle control, muscle tone, and sensory integration of the central nervous system of an individual lacking muscle control, muscle tone, or sensory integration comprising:

Applying polyacrylamide gel on the individual's skin over target muscles,

Maintaining polyacrylamide gel on the skin for a period of time sufficient to elicit a Reflexive response of the target muscles, and

Removing polyacrylamide gel from skin.




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