When Bruce Fraser from a company called “ALTER-G” first contacted Lori Mitchell, Physical Therapist and DOR, she was ready to hang up almost immediately, thinking it was just another sales call. But, as soon as Bruce started talking about an “antigravity treadmill, developed by NASA, which will allow patients to exercise and maintain weight bearing restrictions,” Lori started listening. What she discovered was that this newly released, FDA-approved device could have the ability to make a tremendous impact with her patient and resident population at Catalina Healthcare in Tucson, AZ.
Lori invited Bruce to meet with her Therapy Department and share more about this unique piece of equipment. She thoroughly researched the technology of the device and arranged to have a 30-day trial, with the goal of incorporating the Alter-G into the therapy program of patients who could benefit from it. Lori also wanted feedback from patients, caregivers and therapists regarding the perceived benefits and challenges of the Alter-G. This information would allow her to make an informed decision about whether or not this could be something of value for her program. With that goal in mind, Lori developed a survey to use during the trial. The Alter-G was used in treatment at Catalina 54 times over two weeks for walking or static standing exercises at 50%-65% of body weight.
Patients reported the following:
Hip pain went away
Legs felt better in the machine
Able to do exercises and hop on one leg, and the other leg didn’t buckle
“I am walking on the Moon”
Entire body feels good on it
No pain in arms (due to reduced Weight Bearing on UEs)
Therapists reported the following:
The majority of the patients did much better with ambulation after using Alter-G
It is good for endurance and functional activity tolerance for ADLS/Gait/Standing
Using the Alter-G really boosted the confidence of a new amputee
There was an overall boost to the patients’ confidence
The Alter-G is much easier to use than a pool and there are similar unloading results
How Does ALTER-G Work?
Originally conceived by Dr. Robert Whalen to design effective exercise regimens for NASA’s astronauts, Differential Air Pressure (DAP) technology has been adapted by Alter-G for use in training and rehabilitation. Cleared by the FDA in 2008, the Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill is a medical device that can be used for:
Rehabilitation of lower extremity injuries
Treatment of neurological conditions
General training to combat the diseases of aging
Unweighting is achieved in the Alter-G by using air in a pressure-controlled chamber to gently lift the user. Precise calibration using patented technology allows for very specific unweighting from 100—20% of the user’s body weight in 1% increments—something no other unweighting modality can do.
Clinical studies show that the Alter-G can help decrease ground reaction forces in walking and running. The restoration of normal gait mechanics is paramount to expected recovery.
The team at Alter-G makes the statement that there are numerous benefits of implementing a senior rehabilitation and mobility program that uses this technology. It can inhibit or postpone bone loss, diabetes and heart issues. It can also reduce arthritis pain, anxiety, and depression. It also prevents functional decline which allows for independence in essential activities of daily living, such as walking, bathing, dressing, getting up from a chair, and using the toilet.
For the first time, senior rehabilitation and mobility are easily monitored and progress verified with Alter-G’s Anti-Gravity Treadmill in the most needed exercise areas:
Endurance – walking strengthens muscles and improves the health of the heart and circulatory system
Strengthening – increase muscle tissue mass and decrease age-related muscle atrophy
Range of Motion – keep the body flexible and maintain good joint health
Balance – reduces the likelihood of falls by training in a controlled environment
Physically frail elderly persons who received supervised functional rehabilitation therapy that included strength training improved on function, strength, balance, mobility, and quality of life measures, according to studies conducted by Yale researchers reported in the October 3, 2002 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers saw a 45 % decrease in impairment after 7 months of balance and strength training. The Alter-G treadmill has been FDA-cleared for strengthening and conditioning in older patients. FDA-cleared rehabilitative uses include any lower body disability, neurological gait training, geriatric strength training, fall prevention and weight loss program.
Lori Mitchell and her therapy team at Catalina Healthcare have taken one giant step for mankind as they have their patients walking on the moon using Alter-G.