Author(s): Ruckstuhl H, Kho J, Weed M, Wilkinson MW, Hargens AR
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Abstract In rehabilitation, treadmill walking with body weight support is commonly used to reduce loads on lower extremities. (1) However, gait pattern alterations during unloading at constant Froude number are infrequently reported. (2) Furthermore, differences between two common devices for unloading are not well known. Therefore, we investigated two devices; a waist-high chamber with increased pressure called Lower Body Positive Pressure (LBPP), and a harness system (LiteGait), considered a standard system for unloading the lower body. Four gait parameters (cadence, normalized stride length, duty factor, and leg angle at touch down), heart rate, and comfort level were monitored in 12 healthy volunteers. Subjects walked at three body weight (BW) conditions (100\%, 66\%, and 33\% BW) and three Froude numbers (Fr), which refer to a dimensionless speed reflecting slow walking (Fr=0.09), comfortable walking (Fr=0.25), and walk-run transition (Fr=0.5). Absolute treadmill speed was determined using Froude numbers reflecting dynamically similar motions during unloading. We found that (1) the normal gait pattern is altered during unloading at a constant Froude number. In rehabilitation, physical therapists should be aware that normal gait pattern may not need to be maintained during unloaded treadmill walking. (2) Gait parameters were not different when comparing LBPP to harness supported walking. However, heart rate was lower and comfort higher during unloaded LBPP ambulation compared to suspended harness walking. Therefore, suspended LBPP walking may be more appropriate for patients with cardiovascular disease and for conditions at high unloading.
This article was published in Gait Posture
and referenced in International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation