Using gravity to improve recovery

April 2, 2015| Health and Wellbeing /

Recovery after a major accident or orthopaedic surgery can be long and challenging. An exciting new piece of equipment is getting patients back on their feet sooner, greatly increasing their mobility and fitness.

Patients recovering from orthopaedic surgeries including knee and hip replacements, and major injuries such as road trauma, frequently need to limit the weight or load on their lower limbs. 

Orthopaedic patients can find putting weight on their legs very painful after surgery and this can restrict their level of activity. Patients who've suffered road trauma or other serious accidents often have complex injuries including multiple fractures. It’s not unusual for them to need to restrict the amount of weight they put on their legs for anything up to 12 weeks.  

Enter the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill, a unique piece of equipment that enables patients to regain mobility without the need to bear their full body weight.

The AlterG is similar to a regular treadmill except the person is encased from the waist down in a cocoon-like chamber of air. Unweighting is achieved by inflating the air chamber to gently lighten the user to their desired body weight. Allowing patients to walk or run at as little as 20% of their body weight. Clear panels on the sides allow therapist to evaluate gait patterns and provide feedback. 

Occupational therapists at Epworth Rehabilitation located at Epworth Richmond and Epworth Hawthorn have been making the most of this technology since mid-2014.

“Being off your feet has an impact not only on your muscles but your whole cardiac system,” says Jacqui Marks, Orthopaedic Trauma Physiotherapist at Epworth Hawthorn. “We’re finding the treadmill really useful for getting people walking again after long periods.”

In the treadmill patients can focus on the quality of their walking without as much pain and improve their cardiac fitness and strength. According to Jacqui, even de-loading a patient by as little 25% can help with confidence and gait pattern quality.

“One of our current patients has been unable to put any weight on his legs for six weeks following a serious accident,” says Jacqui. “At the end of this time he’ll be allowed to walk, but can only carry 50% of his body weight for another six weeks.”

“Before we had the AlterG Treadmill a few basic exercises is pretty much all he would have been able to do. Now, as soon as the first six weeks are up we can put him in the treadmill, set it to 50% and get him walking every day.”

“We love it,” says Jacqui. “We’re using it all the time and our patients are really enjoying it.”

The anti gravity treadmill is just one part of Epworth's comprehensive orthopaedic rehabilitation service which treats patients after surgery, accidents or other types of trauma. To learn more about the full suite of rehabilitation services available visit the Epworth website.

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