Medical Study Seated Rocking for Blood Pressure in the Elderly: A Pilot Clinical Study

Binghamton University Study Shows Seated Rocking (Calf Stimulation) Improves Blood Pressure

Carolyn Pierce, DSN, RN, Janice Pecen, MS, and Kenneth J. McLeod, PhD

Decker School of Nursing, Binghamton University, New York, Department of Bioengineering, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York 13902-600, USA.

Biological Research for Nursing, Volume 11 Number 2, October 2009 144-151, # 2009 The Author(s), 10.1177/1099800409334264,


Patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) who rock for 1–2 hr per day in a rocking chair demonstrate significant improvements in depression, anxiety, and balance and a decrease in pain medication usage; however, the underlying basis for their responses remains unclear.

Rocking with plantar flexion uses the calf muscles, enhancing lower limb fluid return to the heart, which should increase blood pressure (BP) and may, then, also increase cerebral perfusion.

Accordingly, we tested the efficacy of rocking activity for increasing BP in healthy, older persons. In a pilot laboratory study of 24 healthy, white men and women aged 55–87 years, we observed that 30 min of steady rocking led to an average 12 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure (SBP, p < .001) and a 3.6 mmHg average increase in diastolic blood pressure (DBP, p < .001). To determine the effect of using this intervention in a nonclinical setting, we tested a similar group of 7 participants at a senior center. In this setting, we observed an average increase in SBP of 27 mmHg (p < .001) and in DBP of 2.5 mmHg (p < .001) after 30 min of rocking. In a subgroup (n ¼ 8) of hypotensive individuals (SBP < 110 mmHg after sitting quietly for 30 min) extracted from both settings, rocking raised the average SBP from <100 mmHg to approximately 120 mmHg. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that rocking can increase BP and, therefore, may enhance cerebral perfusion. This observation may play a fundamental role in designing nursing interventions focused on improvement of symptoms associated with AD. Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; hypotension; rocking chair

PMID: 194199n (PubMed – indexed for MEDLJNE)

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