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A new piece of equipment has recently been added to the Physical Therapy Department at the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults in Palm Beach that is for "Partial Weight Bearing" gait training.

Walking can be a problem for people who have suffered an injury or illness. Techniques used in Physical Therapy at the Rehabilitation Center include Partial Weight Bearing equipment that makes use of a suspension system to provide proper upright posture as well as balance and safety during treadmill walking. This is accomplished through a harness that removes a controllable portion of the weight from the legs, and redistributes it to the trunk. This equipment allows the physical therapists to apply their training to assist the patient in learning how to walk. As therapy goals are achieved on the treadmill, the patient transitions to walking over ground.

The three main components of locomotion are posture, balance and coordination. The new system supports the patient in a secure position that reduces the risk of falling. This encourages a sense of confidence and accomplishment as therapy progresses. Initially, the therapist works on strengthening trunk muscles and exercises to improve balance for weight shifting. Various inclines and different speeds can be presented to work on endurance. A patient can even be lifted from a seated position in a wheelchair to a standing position on the treadmill.

Mobility Research is a company that provides the technology for the LiteGait and WalkAble devices and the treadmill that operates at a slow speed to promote the improvement of walking patterns. Their purpose is "Freedom for therapists, independence for patients."

Photographs at show people of all ages and disabilities using the equipment. Rose Ruiz-Go, a Physical Therapist at the Rehabilitation Center specially trained in Partial Weight Bearing Therapy, utilizes the supported walking unit as one of her therapeutic techniques in gait training. She reports several dramatic successes. A 70-year-old man who had a stroke is walking more independently, in great part because of the confidence he gained using the device. The mother of a 4-year-old girl with cerebral palsy cried for joy when seeing how tall her daughter appeared because of the improved posture in the equipment. Following a skiing accident, teenager Victoria Karmeris says, "Now I can swim at the beach, play table tennis with my family and walk faster and without a cane in school!"

Visitors are welcome to come see the Partial Weight Bearing Equipment, meet the Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapists and learn more about the services provided at the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults.

June 2002

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