As most of you know, we’ve had an Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill for some time now. We’ve used this technology for years to help patients after lower body injury or surgery return to walking faster than they would while walking under the stress of their full body weight.
One of the functions of the Alter-G that we do not use all that frequently, however, is the treadmill’s ability to allow a patient to walk at a decline or downhill. Based on a recent case study in The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, we will likely be using this function much more frequently. The study, “A Novel Downhill Gait-Training Program Following a Total Knee Arthroplasty”, was featured in the Journal’s February 2018 issue and highlights the use of downhill walking as an integral part of rehabbing a patient after a knee replacement.
The simple fact is that most patients struggle with returning to their normal walking pattern after surgery. The study reports that most patients take upwards of 3 years to return to their normal walking pattern post-operatively. This “three-year limp” often creates a ton of secondary issues like arthritis in other areas. So we’re correcting one issue and, in turn, creating other issues in the process. The authors of the study suggest that 10-15 sessions of downhill gait training over a 5 week period will allow patients to return to their normal gait pattern in 5 weeks, not 3 years, thus preventing the secondary issues from ever developing.
I believe that most lower body surgical patients, not just those rehabbing a knee replacement, struggle to return to their normal walking pattern during rehab, and I believe that incorporating downhill walking into their rehab programs may be the missing link.