People who have sustained an acquired brain injury (ABI) often report having problems with their gait (the pattern of how a person walks). Gait impairments after an ABI may be due to difficulty controlling one’s legs, weakness, joint pain, poor attention, decreased judgment and slow processing, among others.
Gait after an ABI is many times marked by asymmetry between the legs and arms, improper joint mechanics, balance difficulty, shortened step length, and decreased speed. Improper gait can lead to several issues including but not limited to: increased fall risk, social stigma, orthopedic problems, increased energy expenditure, and decreased independence with walking.
Research suggests that gait status (independence level, symmetry, speed, etc.) is one of the best indicators of a patient’s functional recovery both physically and socially. In order to address these impairments that commonly occur after ABI, patients must focus on practicing walking in order to reach their walking goals and improve their gait abilities.
One of the challenges that clinicians and patients face with gait training is being able to tell when someone’s walking quality is actually improving. Traditional gait assessment is done visually where one might say, “It looks like your walking is better.” Using various methods to get true measures and real numbers to show improvements in gait quality is currently a popular topic in rehabilitation.
There is a new technology available that provides a unique practice environment for patients to improve their gait quality and also allows physical therapists to generate objective evaluative data when performing gait analysis. At Pate Rehabilitation, we use the Biodex Gait Trainer 3™. This treadmill has the ability to measure many components of gait, such as stance times, amount of lateral weight shifting, step length, and cadence.
Once treatment has started, this equipment provides real-time audio and visual feedback, which helps promote positive neuroplasticity and motor learning in many patients with ABI. The treadmill also provides walking performance results to physical therapists and patients with an objective measure of their gait changes to determine whether meaningful functional progress is being made for each patient.
These results can be printed, saved, and charted in the treadmill software to show progress over time, as well as to continue to guide the individual’s knowledge of the areas in which to focus walking practice. The Biodex Gait Trainer 3™ treadmill lends for an interactive, engaging, and encouraging environment to help improve an individual’s mobility and independence.