Locomotor Training takes rehabilitation at Parkwood Hospital to a whole new level...
St. Joseph’s Parkwood Hospital is one of only a few hospitals in North America using an intensive new therapy to help people with a spinal cord or acquired brain injury regain lower body strength, and, in some cases, even walk again.
The rigorous therapy has been a giant step forward – literally – for Janson Broome who hovered near death after a catastrophic car accident August 22, 2011. After multiple surgeries on his shattered bones and more than six months in hospital, the 25-year-old thought he would never walk properly again. But thanks to the new Locomotor Training (LT) program at Parkwood, and much perseverance, Broome’s recovery has quickly gained momentum.
“After months of physiotherapy with little progress I was skeptical the LT could help me,” says Broome. His outlook changed after only two days on the program. Movement improved in his hips and the pain his back was significantly relieved.
[Above: four staff members are needed for the Locomotor Training session. Here Shannon McGuire (standing) provides support at Janson’s pelvis, while Janelle Wittig, left and Sarah McLean right (partially hidden) move each of his legs. The fourth staff member runs the body weight support treadmill.]
The LT program uses a body weight support treadmill which has a harness that supports and holds the patient upright on the treadmill. With the patient supported, the therapists’ hands are free to work with the patient’s limbs.
“It’s all hands on deck during the LT workout on the body weight support treadmill,” explains Shannon McGuire, a physiotherapist in the Neurotrauma Rehabilitation Program. “The therapists work together to optimize sensory cues for the participant. Walking is automatic - your brain doesn’t seem to pay attention or put a lot of resources into it - unless you have a neurological injury.”
The LT program was developed by the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), which was started by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to make this type of intensive treatment available to the general public, explains Dr. Dalton Wolfe, spinal cord injury research lead at Lawson Health Research Institute.
With only a handful of health care organizations in the United States and Canada now using this more intensive LT approach to therapy, the NRN is developing an evidence and research-based method of therapy. Because of the intensity and duration of the locomotor training, the LT program at Parkwood Hospital is a fee-for-service program.
“The LT program is based on the assumption that the nervous system has plasticity, and that with facilitation of the right movements at a certain level of intensity we can train or mold it to get more normal movement back,” explains physiotherapist Janelle Wittig. “For some, it means regaining the ability to walk. For others, it means having the strength to support themselves sitting, being more independent with transfers, being able to put on their own shirt, a decrease in pain or a reduction in medications needed.”
For Broome, the results speak for themselves. He is the first graduate of the LT training at Parkwood, having completed 44 intensive 90 minute sessions. “More people need to do this program,” he says. “It needs to be a necessary component of the recovery journey. It changed my life.”