At the Glenrose, robotic -assisted gait therapy is a form of physical therapy that uses a robotic device to help a person improve their ability to walk.
In the past, a physical therapist would manually move a patient’s legs through repeated gait cycles. This was a very labour-intensive process that allowed for only a limited number of repetitions at a significant physical cost to the therapist.
Robotic systems clamp the legs and support them through many repetitions. The pace and relative support of the two limbs can be programmed for maximum effect.
The Lokomat in the BTACC consists of a treadmill, a body weight-supported system and two robotic arms that attach to the thighs and calves. The patient’s legs are moved through a gait-like pattern while the Lokomat controls the hip and knee motion, the amount of gait assistance provided, gait speed and amount of body weight support. Force sensors measure the amount of resistance or assistance generated by the patient from which data is extracted to measure the patient’s progress.
Robotics is also evolving to include the Ekso Skeleton, which is a wearable bionic exoskeleton robotic suit that allows wheelchair users to stand and walk.
The battery-powered bionic device can strap right over a patient’s clothes. It is equipped with sensors and motors that allow patients to walk safely and avoid falling.
The torso and leg straps make it easier for patients who have suffered from stroke, spinal cord injury and other forms of lower extremity weakness to walk again.