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AlterG treadmill helps Mary Free Bed patients defy gravity, rehab sooner and safer

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Charlie Pietryga is a ballet dancer who relies on body strength to gracefully glide across a stage. But the 17-year-old from East Grand Rapids had to hang up her toe shoes when she suffered Morton’s neuroma, a painful condition that affects the ball of the foot.

Following surgery, Charlie – a member of Grand Rapids Ballet’s Junior Company – began outpatient physical therapy at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital using the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill, an innovative physical therapy tool recently added to Mary Free Bed’s rehabilitation technology arsenal.

Developed using NASA technology, an “anti-gravity” chamber enables therapists to adjust the amount of body weight a patient puts on their lower extremities from 100 percent to as low as 20 percent. This reduces impact and pain while supporting movement and balance. Differential air pressure technology provides a near-weightless experience for patients recovering from injury or surgery, or who are deconditioned from illness.

Charlie performed ballet barre exercises simulating dance movements inside the AlterG.

“I’m able to do a lot of the things that I can’t do on land right now,” Charlie said. “I’m able to gain and maintain strength while not being at 100 percent of my body weight.”

Mary Free Bed invested $45,000 in the technology, which is especially important for patients recovering from lower-body orthopedic conditions, said Chris Bajema, manager of the hospital’s Orthopedic Rehabilitation outpatient program.

“The AlterG allows patients to rehab sooner and safer,” Bajema said.

About Mary Free Bed
Mary Free Bed is a not-for-profit, nationally accredited, rehabilitation hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. For more than 125 years, Mary Free Bed has restored hope and freedom through rehabilitation for children and adults who have experienced brain injuries, strokes, spinal cord injuries, multiple traumas, amputations, cancer and other diagnoses. The combination of 110-plus specialized medical and sports rehabilitation programs and an exclusive focus on rehabilitation enables our specialty physicians and staff to help patients achieve extraordinary clinical results. For additional information, visit maryfreebed.com

Additional Facts:


The Alter G helps patients:

  • Improve mobility and strength
  • Increase range of motion
  • Support normalized gait mechanics
  • Move with little or no pain

The Science

  • Developed using NASA technology
  • Differential air pressure technology creates a near-weightless experience for patients recovering from injury, surgery or illness


  • Nearly weightless environment is created over a treadmill
  • The AlterG’s Stride Smart software provides the clinician with instant feedback, including analytics for weight-bearing symmetry, step-length symmetry, stance-time symmetry and cadence.


Learn more about the AlterG and hear from Mary Free Bed patients, including Charlie, using the new device by watching this video:

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