There are many different modalities to assist in lower limb rehabilitation and the use of anti-gravity treadmills have recently added to this rehabilitation process.
This is primarily due to the ability of being able to decrease the weight bearing load on the patient allowing a quicker return to functional movements such as squatting, walking, and running.
In today’s blog we will look at different lower limb injuries and how anti-gravity treadmills assist in the rehabilitation process and what benefits can be gained.
Knee Osteoarthritis Rehabilitation
Using the anti-gravity treadmill as an intervention/rehabilitation procedure for Knee Osteoarthritis Rehabilitation was conducted over several studies. One study included a program of 6 days a week for 2 weeks, where the intervention was used for 30 min per session. This intervention involved two major components, walking and squatting (1). This study found the patients temporal parameter results showing an improvement in stride length mean velocity and cadence (1). Furthermore, using the anti-gravity treadmill relieved acute pain, and was also effective at improving spatio-temporal parameters, knee flexion/extension gait pattern, and corresponding muscle strength, thus allowing the patient to return to community activities sooner than persons not using the anti-gravity treadmill as an intervention/rehabilitation tool.
Full Knee Replacement
Full Knee Replacement studies using the anti-gravity treadmill found that it is successful as a safe intervention that helped improved functional outcomes (2). Studies found that by using the anti-gravity treadmill in the acute phase 1-2 weeks post-surgery, that patients had a positive effect on being able to balance without pain due being able to lessen their weight in this acute phase of post-operative knee recovery (3). Patients were also able to gain better range of movement and had less pain impacting on their rehabilitation then those not using the anti-gravity treadmill, making return to normal life substantially quicker than those subjects not using the anti-gravity treadmill (4).
Achilles’ Tendon Surgery
Studies using the anti-gravity treadmill for Achilles’ tendon surgery rehabilitation concluded that patients were able to return to walking and progress to running much sooner due to being able to off load body weight and lessen the impact of the surgical area. Therefore, enabling patients to restore functional performance sooner (5). Furthermore, subjects who were able to run at 85% of their body weight, were able to transition sufficiently to be clear to run outside on full body weight (5).
By being able to reduce the load on post-operative patients using an anti-gravity treadmill, rehabilitation was found to be a safe an accepted procedure by both patients and therapists, in several lower limb rehabilitation procedures, and lead to clinical functional outcomes. These outcomes were as good as traditional postoperative weight-bearing however, the implementation of the anti-gravity treadmill was less stressful and potentially safer to the surgical site and allowed for more aggressive rehabilitation to take place.
(1) Liang J, Lang S, Zheng Y, Wang Y, Chen H, Yang J, Luo Z, Lin Q, Ou H. The effect of anti-gravity treadmill training for knee osteoarthritis rehabilitation on joint pain, gait, and EMG: Case report. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 May;98(18)
(2) Bugbee WD, Pulido PA, Goldberg T, D'Lima DD. Use of an Anti-Gravity Treadmill for Early Postoperative Rehabilitation After Total Knee Replacement: A Pilot Study to Determine Safety and Feasibility. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead NJ). 2016 May-Jun;45(4)
(3) Sueyoshi, Ted & Emoto, Gen. (2018). The effect of anti-gravity treadmill on balance in acute phase of post-operative knee rehabilitation. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine. 9. 59287. 10.5812/asjsm.59287
(4) William D. Bugbee, MD, Pamela A. Pulido, BSN, Timothy Goldberg, PT, COMT, and
Darryl D. D’Lima, MD, PhD. Use of an Anti-Gravity Treadmill for Early Postoperative Rehabilitation After Total Knee Replacement: A Pilot Study to Determine Safety and Feasibility
(5) Saxena A, Granot A. Use of an anti-gravity treadmill in the rehabilitation of the operated achilles tendon: a pilot study. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2011 Sep-Oct;50(5):558-61