I Feel Like RoboCop!
Well I don’t…but many of our clients do. The 1987 Oscar nominated film featuring a terminally wounded cop that returns to work as a powerful cyborg is quite often the first thought when someone is strapped into the Lokomat – a robotic gait orthosis that automates locomotion therapy on a treadmill. Or in English – robotic legs are strapped onto the client and allow that person to walk on a treadmill.
According to the makers of the Lokomat, Hocoma, this futuristic robot walking machine “assists walking movements of gait-impaired clients – whether the cause of impairment is cerebral, spinal, neurogenic, muscular, or osseous”. Training with the Lokomat is proposed to reduce stiffness and spasticity, increase active range of motion, peak-velocity and peak-acceleration of voluntary movement. The list of benefits does not end there, especially when you consider the risks associated with immobility and being bound to a wheelchair.
We prefer to use the Lokomat as an integrated piece of our protocol, rather than a stand-alone treatment technique. Clients are improving more quickly and reaching more goals when the entire body structure is addressed prior to gait training. Just as a track athlete eats certain foods and does specific stretches prior to a race, clients usually get better results when the body is fully prepared to take on the Lokomat.
Check out the Aim2Walk YouTube channel or browse the internet and you will find lots of videos of individuals with varying neurological conditions using the Lokomat for therapy. Actually, 552 videos came up from my Google search of videos and news reports from across the globe. So why hasn’t everyone heard of this important therapy tool yet? Despite being around since 2001 and Hocoma’s website stating there are more than 300 Lokomats located in 50 countries worldwide, the majority of our clients had never heard of the Lokomat prior to being referred to (or happening upon) our facility.
A large part of trying to help change the state of neurological rehabilitation will be getting the word out that rehabilitative technology like the Lokomat can make a huge difference in someone’s recovery. In rehab, there are a few ways to do this: media, academic research proving effectiveness, and word of mouth.
The Lokomat gets some media love but not as much as you’d think, mostly because it isn’t an instant cure. Many neurologically impaired clients don’t wheel into a rehab facility and then walk out, but that is exactly what news outlets want. Give them the ‘miracle’ story and they have a bigger audience. Instead of instant effects, the Lokomat works via that important little thing called neuroplasticity that we discussed in a recent post. It involves all of the important aspects of neuroplasticity – lots of repetition, task specific activity, and augmented feedback.
There is loads of published research involving the Lokomat – we will cover past and future research in future blog entries – and as with much of the therapeutic world when it comes to a definite indication of effectiveness, the research suggests more research needs to be done. Great, that doesn’t tell you or me anything. But one only has to dig a little into the research to learn that the Lokomat IS effective…the studies just don’t show for certain if it is significantly MORE effective than current standard treatment techniques. They also don’t know for certain if lots of other effective treatments are significantly more beneficial than older forms of the same type of treatment.
One thing I do know for certain is that the Lokomat is working for our clients. We see first-hand the benefit for our clients’ spasticity, ROM, circulation, core stability, sensation and strength – all measureable outcomes.
In my opinion, word of mouth is the best way to spread the word about, well, anything. Although word of mouth these days means a lot more than just telling a friend who tells a friend who tells her uncle. It usually means posting your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook and/or any of the multitudes of social networking sights, reaching pretty much everyone in existence. If someone uses the Lokomat and experiences improvement, everyone within earshot, every friend on facebook and every follower on twitter will know about how great this type of therapy is. So, the best way to get people to know about the Lokomat is to get results. Results will get you in the news, results will eventually show up in research, and results will definitely be seen in your next status update on Facebook.
And, if all else fails, at least clients can feel like RoboCop!