Anti-gravity treadmill provides float-like experience for recovering patients

Posted at 5:01 PM, Jan 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-19 18:41:03-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. --  A new anti-gravity treadmill is creating a near-weightless experience for patients at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital to help people with joint and muscle pain recover as quick as possible.

The AlterG anti-gravity treadmill allows therapists to adjust the amount of body weight a patient uses from 100 percent to as low as 20 percent.

The treadmill also is capable of recording sessions, allowing patients to watch live during the session and make corrections as needed.

“There is a three-cam set up around the patient for the therapist to record and analyze the gait," said Mary Free Bed rehab technician Dennis Hoekzema. "There are censors in the treadmill itself that measure cadence, step length and step symmetry.”

It may feel a little strange at first, with a vacuum-type feel around the body, but it helps patients move with little or no pain while supporting movement and balance.

“If you had a knee replacement, and you’re not able to completely put your weight on it for a set amount of time," said Hoekzema. "This will take the weight off, but still help you get that motion like you’re moving, like you’re walking, or like you’re running.”

Mary Free Bed patient Jenice Vance said while walking has been difficult for her since an accident tearing her ACL and right knee, and having her ACL replaced in November, the anti-gravity treadmill is helping her mobility and strength.

“Like an air machine, it just takes all the weight off. I’m little, so it literally pushes me off to distribute my weight and even me out," said Vance. “It definitely helps you learn how to walk again, learning how to distribute your weight evenly on both legs and the motion of walking.”

The rehabilitation hospital invested $45,000 in the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill. There are about 6-8 patients each day using the technology.

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