Stroke Gait Therapy Combines Thinking Skills with Walking

A new 4 year research program focused on a unique way to teach stroke victims how to walk is sponsored by the American Heart Association and being conducted by Prudence Plummer-D’Amato, who is an assistant professor of physical therapy at Northeastern University. The project with be conducted at New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Woburn, Mass.

What is so special about it is that it will compare traditional physical therapy that uses just walking as the therapy with a group that uses walking plus some cognitive (thinking) skill such as talking or counting numbers backwards. The ability to walk and carry on a conversation is something that many stroke survivors have problems with. This is called shifting attention and it could also mean paying attention to street signs when walking and potentially may disrupt social skills.

The outcomes will be very interesting. Is it possible that under a more demanding situation (the thinking tasks) that the motor skill of walking could be more quickly improved or enhanced? I guess only time will tell.

The goal of the study is purely functional with the aim of improving physical rehabilitation and allowing therapist to implement therapy that yields real world results. This appears to be a very good outcome to aim for. Real world application and function is what it is all about. Therapies that can enhance the quality of life for stroke survivors are much needed.

You can read more about the stroke walking research here.

The ForceShoe For Gait Therapy

The wonders of technology never cease to amaze me, especially when they are applied to gait therapy and stroke recovery. From the Netherlands comes this very clever invention, which not only has the potential to collect very valuable data but save time and cost of commuting to specialist appointments.

Therapies that can make services more easily accessible for stroke survivors is a great idea and there should be more of them.

Designed to help medical professionals analyze precisely how a stroke affected individual is using their feet, these sneakers have a slew of sensors that measure the location where the individual is putting pressure as they walk. This data then helps them to develop therapies to aid the patient as they relearn walking.

Created by research workers at The University of Twente in the Netherlands, the ForceShoe transmits the collected information wirelessly to some personal computer for evaluation, meaning the individual no longer needs to go to a specialized movement laboratory.

Professor Peter Veltink sees a lot of uses outside of rehabilitating stroke patients, and thinks there’s great probability of the shoe in sports medicine assisting professional athletes to improve their jumping and running methods.

Although the shoe may look a bit cumbersome, that is OK I guess it is in the function not fashion stage of development. Learn more about the ForceShoe for gait therapy.

Gait Therapy effective in Stroke treatment

Gait therapy or therapy that focuses on regaining walking skills will be done by some stroke survivors. It is becoming more and more popular among physical therapists to use a treadmill for this type of rehabilition. Recent research focused on this form of gait therapy with the goal of increasing walking speed.

Gait Therapy

Gait Therapy

The theory is the basic sport physiology idea of progressive overload, where the body is stressed and asked to adapt as a response. In this case the stress is in the form of progressive treadmill training in combination with conventional physical therapy training and added neuromuscular components. Traditional and more conventional methods of rehabilition have proven ineffective in restoring normal gait to many post stroke patients.

Recent research set out to test and refine the protocol for treadmill training for stroke gait rehab. The goal of the study was to aquire clinical data that this type of treadmill training would aid the walking ability of stroke patients.

One of the main goals of the study was to conclude whether speed training on the treadmill will restore what is called “volitional gait” to stroke survivors. The research showed distinct differences in the walking of stroke versus non stroke people. This difference was termed a walking deficiency.

At the conclusion of the study, there were some specific gains for the stroke subjects which inlcuded:
*Adding strength – better strength helps gait
*Increased co-ordination – through repetition the mind body connection was retrained
* Gait improvement – a more normalised stride length
* Kinematics – the science of motion
* Endurance – a healthier cardiovascular system
* Quality of life – more confident and secure with overall walking.

The study offers a unique new way for stroke victims to improve their level of mobility and offers far reaching implications in the treatments that can improve the everyday quality of life.

What techniques have you found helpful in your gait therapy? Leave your comments below.