Wearing an elastic abdominal binder (a medical version of a girdle available in most drugstores) may help prevent low blood pressure on standing in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), according to research published in the November 27 online edition of Movement Disorders Clinical Practice.
Many people with mid- and late-stage PD experience a sharp drop in blood pressure when standing up from a sitting position. This symptom is also common among people living with the atypical parkinsonism known as multiple system atrophy (MSA). The medical term for it is neurogenic orthostatic hypotension (nOH), and it can make a person feel dizzy, lose their balance and fall or even lose consciousness. Treating orthostatic hypotension with drugs that raise blood pressure is tricky — the medicines can prevent dizziness when standing up, but can make blood pressure too high when lying down.
Studies in people with other conditions that lead to orthostatic hypotension, including diabetes, have suggested that wearing an elastic abdominal binder — a wide elastic band that supports the stomach — helped them maintain a steady blood pressure.
Researchers led by Klaus Seppi, M.D., at the Innsbruck Medical University in Austria tested the treatment in 15 study participants who had PD and orthostatic hypotension. First, they monitored each study participant’s blood pressure during a “tilt test,” during which participants lay on a flat examining table, which is then raised to a seated position. Then participants wore either an elastic abdominal binder or a placebo binder — one that did not put pressure on the abdomen — for two hours and repeated the test. On a different day the participants switched binders and were tested again. Then all participants wore the elastic binders a few hours a day for four weeks and were assessed again.
- On average, blood pressure was about 10 mm Hg higher when participants sat up wearing the elastic abdominal binder versus the placebo binder.
- Lying-down blood pressure remained the same no matter which binder the participants wore.
- Using an elastic abdominal binder daily for four weeks improved symptoms of orthostatic hypotension.
What Does It Mean?
The study authors conclude that elastic abdominal binders may provide a simple tool to alleviate the troublesome PD symptom of orthostatic hypotension. For some, it may be worth trying because it involves no drugs that might interact with other PD medications, and there is no risk of raising overall blood pressure in people whose blood pressure is already generally high.
Limitations of the study include the fact that the number of study participants was small and the study was not double blinded (participants knew which group they were in).
In addition, one side effect that remains to be investigated is the possibility that abdominal binders exacerbate varicose veins in the legs. Therefore, a larger, controlled trial will likely need to be performed before abdominal binders receive broad endorsement. In the meantime, talk with your physician to see if you might benefit from this simple tool to help manage orthostatic hypotension.