Improve walking after stroke – devices and robotics help

A small study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that walking therapy for stroke survivors is significantly more effective when conducted by a physical therapist instead of a robot.

It has been suggested by researchs that for a patient who has neurological damage affecting their legs, moving the legs in a way similar to walking on a treadmill can aid walking recovery.

Improve walking after stroke

Improve walking after stroke

It is common for physical therapists to assist post stroke patients that are too weak to support themselves by using a harness, putting them on a treadmill and helping them move as they would when walking. This can be demanding on the therapist, and robotic devices have been used instead to help alleviate the therapist.

Researchers used 48 stroke survivors who had a stroke 6 months earliers and still had difficulty walking because of hemiplegia. Patients were divided into robotic and traditional therapist assisted walking therapy. All patients received twelve 30 min therapy sessions over a 4-5 week period.

Tt was found both groups improved their walking ability, althought the improvements were greatest in the therapist assisted walking group. The walking speed and the amount of time spent on the weak leg were better improved in the therapist assisted group. Researchers concluded this may be due to physical therapists allowing for human error, while the robotic device restricted movement and minimized errors. It natural to make errors and learn from them with any physical activity and this vital aspect may have been removed with the assistance of the robot.

Robotic devices may be best used for acute stroke patients that have no ability to walk on their own, while those that can walk on their own, even very slowly may be best suited to therapy assisted training.