As research continues to show the importance of being active, many products are making it easier to start gentle exercise and rehabilitation sooner in the recovery process while keeping patients and physical therapists safe.
According to Brian Cousins, vice president of business development for Opedix, the idea for Knee-Tec tights came from a ski instructor wondering if there might be a better way to rehab after injuring his knee. "The biggest thing in postsurgical rehab [for the ACL] is you’ve got to get motion back, you’ve got to get flexibility, range of motion and proper movement," Cousins said. "Hard bracing tends to restrict your motion, and it retrains an improper motion." The Knee-Tec tights are made from sections of stretchy material and other nonstretchy bracing sections, he said. The soft bracing allows the person to have more range of motion and flexibility, but also keeps the joints in proper alignment so the muscles can relearn proper movement, Cousins said.
Opedix also makes a line of Core-Tec shorts for men and women. These are designed with the same materials and bracing to help properly align the hip, pelvic area and lower lumbar, Cousins said.
Francine Bartlett, PT, MSPT, ATC, co-owner of Excel Physical Therapy in Jackson, Wyo., said the tights are an effective tool for helping patients through the rehab process. "We see a ton of knee injuries and hip injuries," she said. "[The tights] help people feel like they are making progress, making the at-home exercise process smother."
Bartlett treats a large number of outdoor enthusiasts and athletes, such as skiers, snowboarders, cyclists, mountain bikers and climbers. She said the tights have been helpful for injuries affecting body parts from the midback down, especially recovering from ACL reconstruction or dealing with low back or hip pain. Bartlett, who is working on a postprofessional DPT, said she thinks the Opedix garments have the same effects and benefits of kinesiology taping for sensory awareness and movement. "You don’t have to rely on a trainer to put the tape on you," she said. "You just slip on your tights."
Easing pressure, boosting workouts
One popular piece of equipment for rehab is the antigravity treadmill made by AlterG Inc. The patient wears a special pair of shorts that fit with the lower body positive pressure treadmill, and air pressure counteracts up to 80% of the person’s body weight. Unweighting the patient helps those recovering from lower extremity injuries start moving and exercising as they continue to heal, according to the company. A study published in December 2012 in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research found clinicians were able to precisely control forces on the knee when a patient was using the lower body positive pressure treadmill. Researchers at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego also discovered other factors such as cadence, stride length and stride duration were not affected, even when the patient was bearing considerably less weight.
AlterG’s newest release is the LiftAccess, an accessory that helps users with less function transfer from a wheelchair or other support into the treadmill. According to a news release, the LiftAccess also protects PTs from the strain of manually positioning the user. Users are fitted with harnesses, then lifted into proper positioning for the treadmill. It comes with a standard-size harness, but 10 additional sizes are available. The machine uses a DC-powered motor to lift as much as 400 pounds, and it extends 35 inches from the treadmill to accommodate larger wheelchairs, according to the release.
NuStep Inc. incorporated user and healthcare provider feedback into developing its newest recumbent cross trainer, the NuStep T4r, according to a news release. The T4r allows people of all ability levels to exercise with natural body movements and minimal impact, the release stated. The trainer combines lower-extremity and upper-body motion. New features include a grab ring for safety and support, 360-degree adjustable seat, easy arm adjustments, comfortable handgrips and supportive pedals. Another feature is an easy-to-read display showing the patient’s seat position, calories burned, steps per minute, watts, distance and workload. Users and clinicians can use a USB port to collect data from sessions.
Accessories to stabilize the user’s legs, secure feet and aid in gripping can help patients who have weakness or limited mobility from stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, according to the company’s website.
Learning in stride
Strider ST-3 and Super 16 No-Pedal Balance Bikes recently received high ratings from AblePlay.org for promoting developmental processes such as "action concepts, core strengthening, stability, coordinated movement, gross motor skills, balance and self esteem," according to a news release. The bikes, developed by Rapid City, S.D.-based Strider Sports International, are designed to help toddlers and young children of many different ability levels learn balance and coordination before they start pedaling, according to the release.
"Our main mission is to give all children the chance to experience the joy of riding a bike," Ryan McFarland, founder and CEO of Strider Sports, said in the release. "This endorsement shows our bikes are a perfect tool for building confidence and bringing the thrill of the riding experience to children of all abilities."
Bonnie Benton is an assistant editor.