Original Research

Strength exercise for balance and gait in HIV-associated distal symmetrical polyneuropathy: A randomised controlled trial

Abdulsalam M. Yakasai, Sonill Maharaj, Musa S. Danazumi
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 22, No 1 | a1268 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v22i1.1268 | © 2021 Abdulsalam Mohammed Yakasai, Sonill Sooknunan Maharaj, Musa Sani Danazumi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 May 2021 | Published: 05 October 2021

About the author(s)

Abdulsalam M. Yakasai, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; and, Kano Zonal Office, Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board, Kano, Nigeria
Sonill Maharaj, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Musa S. Danazumi, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria; and, Department of Physiotherapy, Federal Medical Centre, Nguru, Yobe State, Nigeria


Background: HIV-associated peripheral neuropathy (PN) is a common neurological complication associated with HIV infection. Distal symmetrical polyneuropathy (DSPN) is the most commonly occurring type, which is associated with symptoms such as numbness, unsteady gait and, in some cases, muscle atrophy and weakness when myelinated nerve fibres are affected. If unmyelinated nerve fibres are affected, a painful neuropathy and autonomic symptoms may occur.

Objectives: This research study assessed the effects of a strength exercise intervention on balance impairment and gait disturbance amongst individuals living with HIV-associated DSPN.

Method: The study was a single-blinded, randomised controlled trial (RCT) with participants sourced from four HIV centres in Kano metropolis, Nigeria. The intervention was supervised and included progressive resistance exercise (PRE) (three 40-min sessions per week for 12 weeks) using a quadriceps bench (n = 44). The control group (CG) included the non-exercise group (n = 47). The two groups continued to receive routine care. Data were summarised and analysed using inferential statistics (SPSS version 20 program) with the alpha level set at < 0.05.

Results: At 12 weeks, the results revealed significant improvement with regard to balance performance (p = 0.001) and walking ability (p = 0.001) in the training group. In contrast, no significant differences in balance (P = 0.677) or gait (P = 0.578) were observed in the CG.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that PRE is beneficial for balance impairment and gait disturbance caused by neuropathy in persons living with HIV and receiving antiretroviral drugs.


HIV-associated neuropathy; balance; gait; strength training; outcomes; rehabilitation; antiretroviral therapy


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