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Thread: Zero gravity treadmill

  1. #1
    Senior Member grommet's Avatar
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    Zero gravity treadmill

    Just saw part of this report on CBS5, a local tv station. It's some kind of air pressurized tent over a treadmill that can be adjusted to make the user weightless or heavier, in degrees. I really want to check this out.



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    NASA technology is giving a new lift to treadmills.

    Treadmills are the workhorse of the gym, the staple of cardiovascular exercise. Treadmills help people get in shape and burn calories. Now a new generation of treadmills, developed right here in the Bay Area, is using NASA technology to help users defy gravity with big benefits for patients with neuromuscular disorders and orthopedic injuries.

    The Alter-G Treadmill looks like a bubble-box: you pull up the plastic cover, zip it around your waist, and use air pressure to literally take the weight off. “It allows you to run or walk anywhere from 20% to 100% less of your body weight,” explained Monica Garza, executive director of the D.R. Semmes Family YMCA in San Antonio.“So it’s very much like being on air.”

    That's good news for Brad Stephenson who has muscular dystrophy. "You're able to un-weight your body. So it just feels like a balloon blowing up underneath you. It sort of lifts you up and sort of gives you support," said Stephenson. Spending much of his time in a wheelchair, the Alter-G helps him get a workout, "it allows people with limited mobility to keep moving, get exercise they need keep cardiovascular system going. I depend on it now."

    The Alter-G is also helping people with sports injuries rehab with less pain. "It's also very similar to doing a water aerobic workout where you're getting the same type of workout but you're just really not offering that impact to your knees, your ankles, or your hips," said Garza.

    Scientists at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View came up with the original idea of an anti-gravity treadmill. The initial purpose was to help astronauts prevent bone loss and muscle deterioration in outer space. The company that makes the Alter-G is located in Fremont.

    Links:
    http://www.alter-g.com/
    Last edited by grommet; 01-30-2012 at 09:59 PM.

  2. #2
    Yes, I've seen one of these in use. While my father was in rehab and using the Lokomat, I was also looking into other options for body weight assisted treadmill training. This is what I want him to use if we move back to the Bay Area.

    This Alter-G system is interesting, but rarely used in the SCI world. I saw it at the Neuro-rehab clinic run by a group of UCSF therapists (Univ of California, San Francisco). I spoke with Dr. Byl, who is on that video. She is the main person utilizing the machine.

    At the time, they didn't have anyone with spinal cord injury using it. Several patients with multiple sclerosis, strokes, progressive muscle disorders, athletes with injuries.

    It looked fantastic to me. MUCH MUCH more comfortable then that damn Lokomat harness. The patients loved it and could tolerate exercising much longer on it. Dr. Byl also liked to combine it with core training. She would simply have someone throw a ball at you to catch, while you were walking. She was doing small clinical trials/data collection herself, showing that in subsets of her patients she was getting more rapid recovery by "multi-tasking". It was very interesting, and I think she was going down the right road.

    The challenging part for folks with SCI is that we might have a harder time remaining upright, since the vacuum helps some but it wont give equivalent support to the core/body as a tightly clamped harness. There are handlebars on the sides/front - just like a normal treadmill - so you can support yourself some on those. But if core or arm strength is less, it might be a little harder to use. But still possible. Maybe it would cause you to fatigue more.... Again, she hadn't used it with SCI patients to my knowledge, so these concerns were primarily my own.

    The biggest downside is you have to be able to move your legs yourself. There are no leg braces like with the full Lokomat. You have to be able to walk a treadmill/take steps. And since your legs are enclosed in a "vacuum bubble" of sorts, the therapists can't reach in to help your legs step, which is often done when we first start doing body weight assisted training.

    So this tool works best for people with incomplete injuries that already can step themselves on a treadmill, with body weight assistance. It is more comfortable, can do a fantastic job of removing weight so it is easier to step, and doesn't take 5-10 minutes to set up like a Lokomat!

    We will definitely try it if we are out there.

    Dr Byl is amazing, by the way.

  3. #3
    Senior Member grommet's Avatar
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    I am very interested in checking this out. I don't have an SCI and but it's been years since I could stand or walk without pain. I would love just a few seconds of that feeling. One report I saw said a clinic was charging $100/mo. I live in San Francisco, maybe I could find one place that would let me pay for one session. I'm worried they're going to want to put me through an H&P with pages of questions and a long interview. If I found it at a gym or a rehab clinic for AB folks with sports injuries I could probably just show up and try it. I'll be looking into it. I just want that feeling.

  4. #4
    My local hospital had one of these donated last year. I have been wanting to go in and give it a try.
    I enjoy swimming with the buoyancy the water gives. It would be wonderful to have this same sensation while standing.
    I an incomplete C5. I have a lot of muscle weakness and joint pain from misuse/abuse.
    Need to get with it and give it a try!

  5. #5
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    That is really cool! Thanks for sharing. Now I will have to find one around here...

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by grommet View Post
    I am very interested in checking this out. I don't have an SCI and but it's been years since I could stand or walk without pain. I would love just a few seconds of that feeling. One report I saw said a clinic was charging $100/mo. I live in San Francisco, maybe I could find one place that would let me pay for one session. I'm worried they're going to want to put me through an H&P with pages of questions and a long interview. If I found it at a gym or a rehab clinic for AB folks with sports injuries I could probably just show up and try it. I'll be looking into it. I just want that feeling.
    I like the comparison of walking in water... the weightlessness. Except it should be even easier with less resistance.

    But I am certain they would want to do a basic assessment of you before you get into it. For liability reasons alone, as this is not a simple piece of equipment. But what's the big deal of asking your doctor for a prescription for "Physical therapy evaluation - gait training, weight assistance" or something like that? Is it really so bad to have to sit through 30 minutes of an appointment first? Call up Dr. Byl at UCSF. She is really fantastic. Sure, she'll sit with you first and examine you and ask you a bunch of questions. But that's what you want! You want her to know how to adjust the machine to your strengths/weakness, what the best rate/weight assistance to start with etc...

    Let us know if you find a gym willing to let you use this without a therapist. I would be surprised if a typical gym could afford one of these anyway. UCSF got theirs as a donation.

    Our local gym that has a powerplate wont even let us use that without "trained specialist" assisting, and a nice surcharge....

    Jett, please try it and report back!
    Last edited by hlh; 01-31-2012 at 01:05 AM.

  7. #7
    They are really good for orthopaedic injuries. I don't have one at my place because we are strictly neuro. The main issue I have is the inablility for the physical therapist to give tactile cues and manually assist if needed. Also, their is a screen imbetween the upper body and the lower body which is not the best for visual cues for the patient. For over 60 grand I can think of many better options-->overhead rail systems with modified weight support. There is always the pool as well.

  8. #8
    Thanks again grommet for reminding us of this equipment.

    I brought it up with my Dad's physical therapist today, and she told me that there are places right where we live now that have them. One private PT company is only a few blocks away! So we are going to get a script for "gait training" and will try to give it a try.

  9. #9
    Senior Member grommet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hlh View Post
    Thanks again grommet for reminding us of this equipment.

    I brought it up with my Dad's physical therapist today, and she told me that there are places right where we live now that have them. One private PT company is only a few blocks away! So we are going to get a script for "gait training" and will try to give it a try.
    I am hoping to find a place that will let me try it. I I just want to feel what it's like to stand straight up, all the way, back straight. I'd like to walk a little too, just to have that feeling of doing it without pain. I don't know if that's what it will be like at all. I'm just hoping to build up a good memory. I am able to exercise using the recumbent exercise bike at the gym and sometimes the leg press machine also. Really what I'm hoping for is to remember feeling normal. It's been so long, I dream disabled. Is this too weird?

  10. #10
    No, its not too weird at all. It is really normal. It is human, I think.


    I just made an appointment for my Dad to go try this equipment at the nearby private Rehab clinic in a little over 1 week.

    The therapist I spoke to on the phone scheduled us to come by to "try it" under her guidance. If my Dad likes it, we will get a prescription for ongoing use.

    The therapist admitted that they use it primarily for orthopedic patients, but did use it recently for an incomplete SCI patient similar to my father, but who had less function. That patient liked it so much that he wanted to buy one for his personal use!


    My Dad still has dreams where he is in his wheelchair, and then he gets out of it and walks normally. I think he is hoping that when he gets into the AlterG, he will be able to take some "normal" steps.... where he isn't hanging on.... and his arms are swinging free...

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