Using Technology To Help Stroke Survivors with Balance and Walking Issues
Often, individuals find they have issues walking normally or balancing after a stroke . When combined with expert hands-on therapies, certain rehabilitation technologies  can help get stroke survivors standing and walking normally again.
Body weight support systems, for example, can help stroke  survivors walk normally by improving gait patterns, quickening leg swing and increasing gait speed. These are all essential elements to normal walking. The devices use overhead suspension systems and harnesses over top of a treadmill or the floor. Therapists then support and guide patients as they walk to improve posture, limb placement and speed.
If we can get patients moving at speeds and levels similar to their pre-stroke gaits, they can tap into the pattern generators in their memories without it being a conscious effort.
A body weight support system can be especially effective for stroke  survivors who have paralysis or weakness on one side of the body, because it decreases the weight-bearing load on that side.
Computerized balance training and assessment devices also help clinicians get stroke  survivors back on their feet. These devices, such as the Smart Equitest System, allow clinicians to measure:
• How patients use their feeling through their feet, middle ear and their vision to keep their balance
• How patients will react if they slipped or were pushed
• How far patients are able to move in all directions without moving their feet
This information is vital, and it allows therapists to develop a treatment plan designed to address each patient’s specific issues. This might include standing from a seated position with symmetrical control on both legs, walking up and down stairs to overcome favoring one side or standing with proper alignment on one leg.
The technology also creates a record of patient balance scores to determine progress toward goals. This information help therapists track a patient’s progress over time, which is important for motivation and to determine future treatments.
Watch this blog for more information on other ways that technology can help patients in the stroke rehabilitation process.
Sue Golden, PT, and Kathy Slezak, PT, contributed to this post. Watch this blog for more information on other ways that technology can help patients in the stroke rehabilitation process.