It is something we see time and time again in our clinic: patients struggling with chronic pain. Maybe it is from a recent injury or surgery, or one from long ago. Either way, enduring pain can impact the quality of life, and can often require long-term treatment plans that include heavy doses of pain management and, sometimes, medication. Yet, there are ways to manage pain with physical therapy that can help patients live happier, healthier, and pain-free lives.
The truth is, chronic pain doesn’t have to keep patients from staying active and getting fit. There are ways to walk and even run, with less impact and without being limited by pain or discomfort. Have you tried an “unloaded” environment that prevents overloading healing tissues too soon? In this lower impact training environment, patients can then strengthen muscles, protect joints and areas of pain, and make marked progress toward recovery.
And that’s where the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill® comes in.
For partial weight-bearing patients (who can at least tolerate some weight-bearing exercise), we can use the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill to unload movement in precise increments, and adjust support for less pain and guarding. The result is improved motion and gait mechanics for a variety of conditions for a variety of age groups, including:
- Bilateral knee and heel treatment
- Lateral ankle reconstruction
- Pediatric pain management
No matter the age of the patient, or the nature of the injury, we start with calibration. While certain injuries might be the same, each person is different, with a different threshold for pain. Once we’ve calibrated the treadmill to a specific patient, we lower body weight load to 50% and have our patients try squats and other balance activities to see where their pain level is. If they are still experiencing pain, we reduce body weight load in 10% increments until we reach the amount of body support necessary to allow the patient to be pain-free when standing or walking.
From this point forward, we can ensure that therapy on the treadmill is gradual to match the pain levels. Fine-tuned, too. Throughout therapy, we track progress using Stride Smart technology, which will measure and keep track of weight bearing symmetry, cadence, step length symmetry, and stance time symmetry.
Finally, by reducing the impact on the body we are able to ensure a safe therapy environment in which patients are comfortable. This can have a remarkable impact on patient attitudes, especially those coming to therapy wary or fearful of pain. The fact is, chronic pain is manageable—it starts with smart technology and a balanced, informed approach.