Anti-gravity treadmill relieves pain for patients: ‘like walking on the moon’

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WATCH ABOVE: Some cutting-edge technology at the University of Alberta is helping patients defy gravity and beat pain. Su-Ling Goh explains.

It looks like a cross between a treadmill and a bouncy castle. So it’s no wonder Kim Dao’s patients are usually skeptical – until they try it.

“(Patients’)¬†immediate reaction is, ‘It’s been years since I’ve done this,’ or, ‘This feels wonderful and amazing,'” said Dao, a clinical assistant professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta.

The U of A’s new anti-gravity treadmill, AlterG, uses NASA technology to create air pressure inside a bubble that’s sealed around the user’s legs.

It can lift a person by up to 80 per cent of their body weight, meaning minimal pressure on sore joints.

“It feels like you’re walking on the moon,” said physical therapy patient April McDonald.

McDonald, 34, has been in pain since she fell through a deck at age 12. She had a double hip replacement in August 2016.

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“(The AlterG) holds you up so you just concentrate on the actual rotation of your legs and muscles,” said McDonald. “Rather than trying not to waddle or trying to displace your weight… which causes the pain.”

The U of A purchased the $50,000 treadmill in December. So far about 20 patients have used it, mostly for osteoarthritis, but physical therapists see potential for chronic pain, stroke or spinal cord injury.

Compared to running in a swimming pool, Dao says the AlterG offers less resistance and is more practical.

McDonald says when she can finally keep up with her three kids, she’ll be truly over the moon.

“It’s the closest thing to being an astronaut I’ll ever be.”

Alberta has at least three more AlterG treadmills – in Calgary, Lethbridge and at Edmonton’s Leading Edge Physiotherapy.