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Windermere Observer Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 3 years ago

AlterG machine helps patients defy gravity

The AlterG anti-gravity treadmill at Orlando Health’s rehabilitation center at the Dr. Phillips YMCA helps patients race to rehab.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

DR. PHILLIPS  Imagine being on a treadmill that lets you walk or run — but on only 20% of your body weight.

Rehabilitation patients can do just that with the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill, one of the newest additions to Orlando Health’s outpatient rehabilitation services center at the Dr. Phillips YMCA. 

The AlterG — created by NASA engineer Robert Whalen and his son, Sean — works by creating a pressurized lifting force around the lower half of the user’s body, allowing him or her to walk or run with reduced impact. 

“What you do as a patient is you put on a pair of shorts — I liken them to a wetsuit type of material — and then those shorts zip into the chamber of the treadmill,” said Kathryn Henderson, a physical therapist and Orlando Health’s manager of rehabilitation services at the Dr. Phillips YMCA. “The chamber comes up and calibrates your weight, and through the force of air, you can be unweighted. Up to 80% of your body weight can be taken off.” 

The chamber has clear plastic on three sides that allows physical therapists to see into the chamber and how the patient is walking on the treadmill. Additionally, the Dr. Phillips YMCA set up cameras from different angles that project onto a TV screen above the treadmill, so both the therapists and patients can look at their gait and adjust it accordingly.

Henderson said use of the machine benefits anyone who is looking to decrease his or her weight distribution through the lower extremities during exercise. Examples of injuries that the machine can help rehabilitate include ankle fracture, ankle replacement, ACL repair, knee and hip replacement and lower-back injury. Additionally, it can help with gait training and strengthening for neurological patients, as well as for strengthening and conditioning for older patients.

“There are some surgeries where you can’t bear 100% of your weight, so we call that partial-weight bearing, where only 25% of your body weight should be felt through your leg,” Henderson said. “We can get patients into that treadmill so that they can be up on that leg … and then get them up to weight bearing sooner than we would without it so they can do balance activities.”

Although similar to water therapy in that patients can come close to being weightless, the AlterG differs in that it offers no resistance, whereas water does. Additionally, the AlterG can calculate the exact weight being taken off a patient. In contrast, there is no way to know precisely how much weight is being taken off people when they are put in water.


Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].

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