Anti-gravity treadmill speeds up healing

Physical therapist Daniel O’Keef walks on the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill Friday at Banner Health–Ogallala Community Hospital. The treadmill uses Differential Air Pressure to lift the patient and reduce the weight their lower extremities are bearing. 

Injuries sometimes feel impossible to overcome, but thanks to an high tech treadmill, Shalee Krajewski of Ogallala was able to float through the recovery process.

Krajewski, 29, tore her ACL, a ligament in the knee, while playing volleyball last October. She began meeting with Daniel O’Keef and Joseph Kempton, physical therapists at Banner Health’s Ogallala Community Hospital. They immediately told Krajewski about a new machine that would be added to the gym in November: The AlterG M320 Anti-Gravity treadmill.

“The rehab process and length of time it takes to get back to ‘normal’ after an ACL tear can seem to be very long and depressing,” Krajewski said. She was more then willing to try something that could speed the process up.

The AlterG was originally developed at NASA to help astronauts acclimate to working out again after spending time in space. It was then tweaked to help athletes with conditioning and overcoming injuries and eventually adjusted a little more for patients going through rehabilitation. Kempton and O’Keef called the AlterG the “gold standard,” and noted that it’s used by almost every NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball team to keep players moving.

AlterG treadmills allow patients to run and walk without bearing their entire weight, according to the company. The machine uses Differential Air Pressure technology to lift the body and reduce the weight on the lower extremities by up to 80 percent.

In Krajewski’s case, O’Keef set the treadmill to 40 percent after her surgery, which allowed her to get moving without as much pain or a risk of further damaging her knee.

“I definitely think it sped up my recovery,” Krajewski said. “I could walk farther with less pain.”

In addition to the physical benefits, it improved Krajewski’s outlook on the situation. She said it gave her motivation to keep going to therapy and she liked being able to see improvements from one week to the next. Krajewski has to stay off of the treadmill for a few months, not because she was injured again but because she’s six months pregnant. She said she wants to get back to running as soon as she can.

It’s not limited to patients with ACL tears, O’Keef said. Patients who have other types of injuries, are obese or have had a stroke.

“I’ve used it with everyone from marathon runners to professional motocross racers,” O’Keef said.

O’Keef said the machine prevents over training and associated issues such as shin splints. It can also help athletes shorten their pace time on the mile in a controlled environment.

Soon, the treadmill will be fitted with a camera system and screen that will record the patient’s gait.

“We can tell them that their gait is off but they can’t see it,” Kempton said. The video system will allow patients to see what the therapist is seeing so they can make corrections and avoid new injuries.

In the future, Kempton said they want to develop a private pay program that would make the treadmill available for patients who don’t necessarily need physical therapy but could benefit from using the AlterG.

The next closest AlterG treadmills are located in Kearney and Alliance.

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