Case Study

An innovative approach to reducing pain in patients with peripheral neuropathy related to HIV: A single case study

Natalie A. Benjamin, Jennifer Jelsma
African Journal of Disability | Vol 3, No 1 | a118 | DOI: | © 2014 Natalie A. Benjamin, Jennifer Jelsma | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 February 2014 | Published: 07 August 2014

About the author(s)

Natalie A. Benjamin, Department of Physiotherapy, School of Therapeutic Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Jennifer Jelsma, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa


Introduction: Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is the most common neurological condition seen in people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and has been estimated to be present in up to 30% of people with AIDS. Prevalence may be increasing as it appears to be related to the use of antiretroviral therapy in many cases, particularly medication containing stavudine. It is often characterised by burning and numbness in the feet. It can interfere severely with function and sufferers resort to a large number of strategies in an attempt to reduce pain.

Case presentation: A 50-year-old man presented with severe PN and showed symptoms of extreme weakness and sensitivity of both lower limbs. His symptoms gradually worsened over a period of 18 months to such an extent that he was unable to walk. Medication had no effect on his pain or related symptoms. The authors tested the use of a Vibromat clinical vibrator to treat his PN symptoms. The patient was treated using the same modality for five evenly spaced (monthly) sessions.

Outcome: The patient showed marked improvement in pain, numbness and pins and needles symptoms after the first session. He was able to walk a short distance with assistance. Treatment was continued and after the third session he was able to walk unaided. Symptom relief was maintained for 4 months.

Conclusion: This is the first case demonstrating the use of the Vibromat in successfully treating the signs and symptoms of PN. This is important for clinicians who manage patients with HIV-related PN and pain.


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