For most stroke patients, physical therapy (PT) plays a very important part in the rehabilitation process. A physical therapist uses training, exercises and physical manipulation of the patient’s body to restore a sense of balance, coordination and movement, enabling the patient to relearn simple motor activities such as walking, sitting, standing.
In this process, the utmost priority of the therapist is safety of the patient. However, this concern for safety can sometimes get into the way of progress, particularly in the case of reteaching the patient to walk. This may sound counter-intuitive: safety hinders the healing process? In actual fact, the process of walking involves throwing oneself off balance on one leg and then catching oneself again on the other leg. And it is found that making mistakes in this process and learning to adapt to it enables the stroke patient’s brain to rewire itself around the injury. However, such mistakes can be very dangerous to the patient as they may injury themselves further when they fall.
All these are performed under a safety net as the robot is able to sense when the patient is starting to drop and is able to stop a fall. “The need to hold on to patients to prevent them from falling interferes with PTs’ abilities to use their hands more creatively and intelligently to help a person learn to move better,” explained Dr. Brown. “We’ve created a way for clinicians to perform challenging interventions for patients with balance and walking disorders. Clinicians can challenge their patients while providing safety.”
The pictures show a person being caught by the KineAssist and his recovery from the fall.