New Anti-Gravity Treadmill Accelarates Rehabilitation for Orthopedic Patients at St. Charles

A treadmill that makes you feel up to 80% lighter with just one use may seem like a dream for anyone who is looking to lose weight. But this advanced technology is more than a work of fiction.

The AlterG Anti-gravity Treadmill® is now a reality and it is available at St. Charles Rehabilitation, where physical therapists use it to return patients to walking or running sooner following a muscle or bone injury.

“With an anti-gravity treadmill, patients who had ligament reconstruction surgery are back to running two months after the procedure. We normally may not attempt this until three or four months,” said Kaan Celebi, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, Clinical Coordinator, St. Charles Rehabilitation.

The key to making this accelerated rehabilitation safe for patients is the way therapists can use the treadmill to precisely control how much stress is put on the lower body when reintroducing the patient to walking and running. Originally created to train astronauts for walking in space, the AlterG Anti-Gravity® treadmill works similarly to aquatic therapy, in which patients are suspended in water to gain weightlessness. However, instead of submerging their lower bodies in water, patients using the AlterG are encased in a “balloon” from the waist down and then nearly lifted off the treadmill using air pressure inside the balloon. While patients’ feet never completely leave the ground, the air pressure adjusts patients’ weight, making them temporarily lighter on their feet.

“We can reduce a patient’s body weight by a specific percentage, which is harder to do in water and more precise than relying on a patient to walk across the room on their injured leg using what they perceive to be 20% of their body weight,” said Celebi. “Having this much control is especially important for running, where the force of landing is about three times your body weight.”

While St. Charles is using the AlterG for patients who have had joint surgery or suffer from minor ankle sprains and muscles strains, the technology also has potential to help less active patients with other types of orthopedic conditions.

Celebi explained, saying, “The literature has shown successful outcomes with the elderly population suffering from spinal stenosis, a condition in which the bones in the spine become more compact, pinching nerves and making it painful to stand or move. Research is finding that using anti-gravity technology to unweight the patient and perform gradual gait training slowly increases older patients’ tolerance to standing and walking.”

For more information about rehabilitation at St. Charles Hospital, please call (631) 474-6797.

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