I wanted to take a second to discuss the Alter-G Treadmill, which has been an invaluable tool for us and available at our 14th and Pine Lake location. The Alter-G is touted as an “anti-gravity” treadmill and, as those who have walked or run on this machine will tell you, the experience can be like no other! Over the last five years, countless patients have been able to use it in our clinic and reap the benefits that bodyweight supported rehabilitation can provide.
The machine uses air to limit the percentage of bodyweight being placed on you. After putting on a pair of the Alter-G shorts, the user is zipped in to the machine at hip level. It takes about a minute to fill with air, sense your bodyweight and calibrate accordingly. We are then able to manage the percentage of your own bodyweight that you experience, reducing it by 0-80% as needed. Past this initial set-up, the Alter-G otherwise acts as a normal treadmill, allowing you to adjust speed, incline, and direction (forward or backward).
When it comes to those who would benefit from the Alter-G, I tend to break this down into two categories. The first would include patients and/or athletes who like to run, but the repetitive impact on their bones and joints consistently gives them pain. The Alter-G allows these people to train at a level of reduced bodyweight that may reduce or eliminate the pain they experience, while still allowing them to meet the time or mileage component they are targeting. It’s important to note that use of a machine like this shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a solid rehabilitation program to address the root cause(s), but may be used as an adjunct for such a program. We have had several former patients continue on after discharge with a membership at our location for the sole purpose of using the machine.
The second category would include those who may have to limit bodyweight for a period of time to allow for adequate healing after fracture, surgery, or other injury. Let’s say, for example, that you fractured your leg and your doctor says they would like you to limit how much weight you put through it to only 25% when walking. While it is certainly possible to do without a device like the Alter-G, this machine allows the user a couple of key benefits:
- First, walking overground with a limitation like that generally involves using an assistive device (crutches, walker, etc.). With the Alter-G, we can free up your hands, and let you focus on the act of walking alone.
- Second, with the use of cameras placed around the machine and the guidance of your therapist, we can target normalizing how that walking looks and feels (in terms of step length, symmetry, heel-toe pattern, etc.) which may allow for an easier transition to walking more normally when outside of the machine.
- Third, traditional bodyweight support systems use uncomfortable straps around your hips, abdomen, and groin to help secure you to the machine and provide a lift. The Alter-G uses much more comfortable and easy to put on neoprene shorts for this purpose.
- Last, while training in a pool provides some bodyweight support, the water also provides resistance to your movements. By filling with air, this resistance is reduced significantly in the Alter-G.
For further information on the Alter-G, check out the company’s website HERE, and some of the clinical research using this tool HERE.
I hope some of this has helped to introduce you to the Alter-G and the benefits it provides. If you think the Alter-G would benefit you and would like to schedule a time to see or try it, give us a call at our South office at 402-421-2700!
All the best!
Troy Goetsch, PT, DPT