It looks a little like an old-fashioned phone booth, but it's really a state-of-the art balance machine at the UAB Spain Rehabilitation Center that helps patients like 70-year-old Julia Crawford of Birmingham learn to walk again.
Crawford, who suffered a stroke in June, has done three sessions on the device, called the Neurocom SMART EquiTest machine. Since the stroke, she's needed a cane, or even a walker, to help her walk, but the machine - installed in late August - is helping her control her balance and learn to walk without aids.
|The state-of-the-art balance machine at Spain Rehab helps patients learn to walk again.
"Balance problems can be difficult to diagnose and treat because they can be caused by a combination of conditions and movement issues," says Catherine Newhouse, administrative director of UAB Rehabilitation Services. "This new technology will help us provide the very best diagnostic and treatment options for patients with balance impairments caused by stroke, traumatic brain injury, orthopedic surgery, developmental disability or aging."
Balance is regulated by three different systems in the body - the eyes, the inner ear and the body's general sense of its place. For patients with balance issues, the Neurocom machine enables therapists to determine which is not working properly. It also provides exercises to strengthen a failing system.
"We can evaluate and we can also treat patients using this machine," says Brian King, a UAB physical therapist. "We can see how far they can shift their weight and determine how they are standing."
For example, patients might be standing with all their weight on one leg and not know it.
"For patients at risk of falling or who already have fallen, we can identify the cause and then treat those issues," King says.
After her third session, Crawford already is seeing results.
"I walked 200 feet in six minutes, then the second time we did it, I walked 400 feet in six minutes," she said. "I'm working toward the day when the cane goes away."
The balance machine was provided by the Women's Committee of Spain Rehabilitation Center, which raised the $100,000 to purchase the machine. The group also has funded other therapeutic devices at Spain, including the aquatic therapy pool and a weight-bearing treadmill.
To see the machine in action, visit www.youtube.com/uabnews.