Anti-Gravity Treadmill

Get back in the game with anti-gravity therapy at Mary Greeley Medical Center.

AlterG at Mary Greeley Medical Center Physical Therapy in Ames, Iowa

Ballard High School basketball player
Annie Stolte uses the AlterG anti-gravity
treadmill as part of her physical therapy.

Ballard High School student Annie Stolte was just trying to keep a loose basketball ball inbounds when her knee twisted. She felt three pops and then intense pain.

The injury was followed by physical therapy, surgery and then another round of therapy, but this time with an exciting new piece of equipment called the AlterG® anti-gravity treadmill. It has Annie ontrack to resume her athletic pursuits, but has applications for a variety of patients, regardless of their age or condition.

"The AlterG is a way to un-weight a person. It is a treadmill for which you put on a pair of shorts and zip into the 'cockpit,'" says Anne Hilleman, P.T. "The machine calibrates your weight and the chamber fills with air in order to un-weight the person on the treadmill. You can take off anywhere from one percent all the way to 80 percent of a person's body weight."

A New Approach

The initial evaluation of Annie's knee was a dislocated patella (kneecap). She began doing physical therapy with Hilleman in the Rehab & Wellness Department at Mary Greeley Medical Center.

"We got a few really good recommendations to Anne. We live in the same town and run into each other sometimes. We know a few people that have worked with her before, and they highly recommended her," says Annie.

During an appointment about three weeks into Annie's rehab, Rhonda Harding, physical therapy assistant, was working on Annie's knee when she noticed some unusual movement. Further evaluation showed Annie had a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Peter Buck, M.D., performed Annie's reconstructive surgery in March 2011. Buck regularly works with area high school and college athletes.

"We'd heard that he was one of the best, so I felt really good about that," says Annie. A couple of weeks after surgery, she returned to physical therapy and became one of the first patients to use the new AlterG machine. "I really like running in it because it makes you feel so light, and it takes away the pain while you're running," says Annie. Annie's father, Shawn, even tried it out. "It's really an impressive machine," he says. "Annie's doing things now that she wouldn't otherwise be able to do because her muscles wouldn't be ready to bear the weight on a normal treadmill."

Fit for Anyone

The AlterG has many advantages for patients. It allows people who have had orthopedic injuries and surgeries to begin walking and running earlier than normal in the therapy process without pain or weight bearing restrictions. This is possible because the AlterG decreases weight pressure on the affected body part. An AlterG treatment differs from using a swimming pool, another popular physical rehab tool, because the treadmill takes away the water resistance and allows for a normal gait pattern.

Hilleman explains that the device can be used for a variety of conditions. Patients experiencing a lot of lower extremity orthopedic problems, lower leg pain, running injuries, neurological problems and gait disturbance can be helped by the AlterG. It can also aid bariatric patients, and people with some balance issues and post-stroke issues.

"It is a wonderful tool to help normalize gait for someone who may have had a stroke and the affected leg is not able to swing through or support the body like it is supposed to," says Hilleman. "We can get people in that are having a lot of foot problems, and again, through the un-weighting process they will have a lot less pain."

"We also want to raise awareness of the AlterG with runners and triathletes who are doing a lot of high-mileage weeks or are prone to running injuries. This is a great way to get your running in, but with a lot less stress on your joints," adds Hilleman.

The Rehab and Wellness Department began using the AlterG in June. At that time, Mary Greeley Medical Center was one of only two facilities in the state that had the anti-gravity treadmill. "The AlterG brings something unique to Mary Greeley Medical Center," says Hilleman. "It is a safe, effective tool to help the body remember how it felt to walk with the correct gait pattern."

Annie, who has aspirations of playing softball at a small college, will soon be able to return full-speed to her active life, playing high school softball, volleyball and basketball. She's glad she got the chance to use this new machine to get through her rehabilitation period and says she would definitely use it again is the need arises. "If it wasn't so expensive, I'd want one at home!"

Learn More about AlterG

This video presents a range of patients with different diagnoses using the AlterG:
1. A Parkinson's patient walking safely, allowing her to stay mobile and improve her condition
2. An overweight patient enjoying running for the first time and losing weight
3. A triathlete recovering from an injury and competing again
4. An injured cop recovering from an injury, enabling him to return to his job

Please watch them use the AlterG and talk about their rehabilitation progress!

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