Veterans use NASA anti-gravity treadmill in treatment

Anti-gravity treadmill

Retired Staff Sgt. Jesse Whitmier exercises in the NASA-developed "anti-gravity" treadmill that allows him to control the amount of his body used during the workout. (Courtesy photo)

-- Veterans undergoing physical therapy at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Medical Center in California can now walk or jog on an "anti-gravity" treadmill that uses a unique differential air pressure technology allowing the veterans to feel as if they are "walking on the moon" by reducing the pressure of the body's weight.

When retired Staff Sgt. Jesse Whitmier zips himself into the treadmill air pouch, he said he feels like he's in a NASA lab, walking with astronauts training for the next launch.

This latest innovation in veteran care is at the outpatient physical therapy gym at the Palo Alto VA Medical Center. The AlterG anti-gravity treadmill is the newest addition to VA physical therapy treatment and reduces the amount of body weight on the knees by using air to "lift" the patient's body.

"Most of my patients use it," said Lemmer Bustamante, a physical therapist at the Palo Alto VA Medical Center. "If we didn't have the AlterG, it would be hard for my patients to use treadmills after operations on their knees or hips."

The touch-screen interface permits the therapist or patient to control the speed of the treadmill in addition to controlling the amount of their body weight utilized to maintain a comfortable workout.

"The AlterG treadmill allows me to do things I can't naturally do anymore," said Sergeant Whitmier, who recently underwent surgery. "I can continue to run like I did when I did track and field and even keep my weight down without pain in my knees."

Even though the machine has only been in the gym for seven months, Mr. Bustamante said he has seen much faster progress in his patients after using the anti-gravity treadmill.
"Previously, we used a pool treadmill, but the problem is you can't control the weight bearing," he said.

The AlterG anti-gravity treadmill is the first FDA-cleared medical device of its kind and is used by major medical centers, leading physical therapy clinics and professional, collegiate, and individual sports and fitness programs.

The machine is a prototype developed by the Palo Alto VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center in collaboration with NASA and AlterG.

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