For those with neurological or orthopedic injury or disease that affects the ability to walk, robot-assisted locomotor training may restore mobility. While manual-assisted locomotor training has been used by physical therapists for years, robot-assisted training is a much newer intervention.
What is locomotor training?
Locomotor training is an activity-based therapy that promotes recovery of walking and other motor functions by focusing on retraining the nervous system after illness or injury. For someone to learn a new, or to change, an existing motor task, practice must be specific to the desired functional outcome and practice must be repetitive.
With healthcare trends shifting to shorter lengths of stay in acute care hospitals, patients needing rehabilitation are being admitted sooner to physical medicine and rehabilitation facilities. And research shows the sooner a patient receives physical therapy after an accident or surgery, and the more intense the treatment, the better the outcome.
New interventions need to be available for staff to maximize outcomes in shorter lengths of time. The newest piece of equipment at Mary Free Bed, and the only one of its kind in the Greater Grand Rapids area, is a robot-assisted locomotor training system.
Robot-assisted locomotor training requires only one therapist, instead of three for manual-assisted body-weight supported treadmill training, to provide treatment, and patients are able to receive intense treatment sooner.
The robot part of robot-assisted training
To provide body-weight support, the patient is harnessed into the system with something similar to a rock climbing harness, and the robotic devices are attached to the patient’s legs via straps. The patient’s legs are moved by the robotic devices over a treadmill in a natural walking pattern. Depending on strength, the therapist can increase or reduce the amount of the patient’s weight on the system.
Patients can expect locomotor training to feel like being in a pool. If the patient isn’t strong enough to bear weight, the system provides them with weightlessness so the body can relearn a walking pattern with risk of fall.
Who can participate in robot-assisted training?
Training is appropriate for most with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, various pediatric conditions, and other neurological or orthopedic conditions. Among other criteria, a candidate must have some sensation or movement in at least one major muscle group in the leg.
This intervention isn’t appropriate for everyone, and certain medical conditions may prohibit participation.
For more information on robot-assisted locomotor training, please call 616.242.0380.
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