Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, but when stroke doesn’t claim lives, it changes them forever. Loss of blood – and, therefore, oxygen – to the brain almost always results in neurological damage. Though each patient’s symptoms are unique, loss of movement, strength, and coordination are common after stroke.
Fortunately, some of this damage can be undone. After stroke, rehabilitation is the most important factor in determining long-term outcomes. Patients may regain independence by retraining their brains and bodies, and many experts are now trained to help them do just that. There is one inescapable force that is always working against them: gravity.
Movement problems after stroke always affect the body parts that are controlled by the damaged part of the brain. For example, if the left side of the brain is damaged, the right side of the body may lose muscle strength, movement, or range of motion. Some patients also experience painful muscle spasms or paralysis.
After stroke, rehabilitation exercises help reduce muscle weakness and prevent stiffness. Maintaining activity and stimulation prevents tendons from shortening or tightening, so that patients can eventually create new neural connections with unaffected brain cells. If muscles are unused and become tense or lose strength, patients cannot perform the exercises that may eventually restore grip and sensation.
Gravity keeps your feet on the floor and our planet in the solar system, but it also makes recovery more difficult for stroke survivors. That’s because gravity is a constant force pulling on our muscles, and patients who lack muscle strength cannot always counteract this force, especially to lift heavier body parts like legs and arms.
After stroke, muscles in one arm or leg may be much weaker. Patients also often experience a sensation of heaviness, making it more difficult to use their hands and interact with their environments. Gravity is responsible for turning mass into weight, and the weight of a patient’s own body can be their biggest roadblock after stroke.
Gravity also sends conflicting signals to a recovering body, and these signals may affect posture after a stroke. Because calf and spine muscles usually “fight” gravity to maintain your posture, gravitational pull tells these muscles to continue fighting and stay strong enough to support you. When you don’t use these muscles due to weakness, they lose a lot of mass because they “assume” you don’t need as much support anymore.
If gravity makes it more difficult to keep weak muscles active, should stroke survivors begin flying in droves to outer space? Well, some machines actually simulate the effects of doing just that. A variety of machines and rehabilitation equipment can create zero-gravity conditions for recovering patients, taking the extra weight off their limbs and making it easier to start developing them again.
For example, the ZeroG system includes a harness and lifting mechanism that alleviates some or all of a patient’s body weight, making it easier for their weak leg muscles to relearn walking, standing, sitting, and other basic tasks and functions. Unlike treadmills that require some amount of stability, strength, and coordination to use, this machine actually lets patients with little to no strength start redeveloping it.
Of course, patients who want to regain mobility may also take advantage of an Anti-Gravity Treadmill. Its other uses include weight loss programs, injury prevention for athletes, and joint replacement recovery, but it’s especially helpful for stroke survivors because it allows recovery to start much sooner. Even if patients cannot sit or stand without assistance, this adaptive treadmill can accommodate their current ability level and evolve alongside them.
Many basic tasks don’t require the legs at all, and there are machines for these, as well. For example, the SaeboMAS compensates for the effects of gravity to facilitate movement of weak hands and shoulders. Your hand and shoulder muscles are essential for reaching, grasping, grabbing, and holding everyday objects, and this device is designed to support the weight of your arms as you practice and perform these tasks.
Anti-gravity machines are one the are the most advanced exercise and functional task technology therapies on the market today. These machines allow patients to use less force while completing different muscle activities. The range of motion that these machines help develop simply isn’t possible if the stroke patient were tasked with performing similar exercises without them.
They also help patients rehabilitate with less muscle and joint pain because there is less force on the body as patients complete tasks. This helps reduce the risk of further injury and allows patients to heal faster.
Anti-gravity machines are great tool for physical and occupational therapists because they provide a precise way to track patient progress. Because these machines make it easier for the patients, they are more engaged and motivated during rehab. Zero gravity machines act as both a rehab device and a wellness tool that both patients and therapists can get excited about.
Anti gravity machines are great solution for stroke patients that are looking to regain mobility, develop strength and fitness, and increase range of motion and natural movement – all while minimizing stress on injuries. Machines like the ZeroG, Anti-Gravity Treadmill and SaeboMas provide both a rehab device and wellness tool that gets patients excited keep progressing back to normal functional tasks like they could before a stroke.
Even before mobility is restored, anti-gravity machines and exercises are great ways to develop muscle activity and keep the muscles stretched, active, and stimulated after neurological damage. These machines solve the problem of the weight of gravity and stroke recovery can start to happen much more quickly and fully.
Whether you are a caregiver, occupational therapist or even a stroke survivor yourself, Saebo provides stroke survivors young and old with access to transformative, life-changing products. We pride ourselves on providing affordable, easily accessible, and cutting-edge solutions to people suffering from impaired mobility and function. We have several products to help with the stroke recovery and rehabilitation process. From the SaeboFlex, which allows clients to incorporate their hand functionally in therapy or at home, to the SaeboMAS, an unweighting device used to assist the arm during daily living tasks and exercise training, we are commitment to helping create innovative products for stroke recovery. Check out all of our product offerings or let us help you find which product is right for you.
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the Saebo website is solely at your own risk.