When using the Lokomat, found in our Legs + Walking Ability Lab, the patient is suspended in a harness over a treadmill and the frame of the robot, attached by straps to the outside of the legs, moves the legs in a natural walking pattern. A computer controls the pace of walking and measures the body’s response to the movement. While the exact mechanism for walking is still not clear, but it is believed that by controlling the repetitive walking pattern we can help the brain and spinal cord work together to re-route signals that were interrupted by injury or illness.
Lokomat Therapy for Pediatric Patients
In addition to training the brain and spinal cord, robot-assisted walking therapy may help strengthen muscles and improve circulation. Also, the weight bearing nature of the exercise may help strengthen bones at risk for osteoporosis (the loss of calcium from bones that makes them fragile and easy to break) due to lack of use.
Previously, this type of therapy is done with the aid of two or more physical therapists that manually move the patient’s legs in a walking pattern. However, the labor-intensive, strenuous nature and variability of the manual method can limit the frequency and duration of the therapy. With robot-assisted walking therapy, the robotic device does most of the heavy work, the pattern and pace are consistent throughout the session, and the exercise can be sustained over longer periods of time.
The effectiveness of robot-assisted walking therapy varies from person to person, so patients should be able to commit to a minimum of 60 minutes of therapy per day, three days per week, for four to eight weeks. Periodic evaluations will be conducted to determine if more sessions would be helpful in achieving the maximum benefit.