'Moon-Walk' Chamber May Speed Orthopedic Rehab

It reduces weight on legs to a fraction of normal gravity

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MONDAY, April 4, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A positive air pressure chamber that provides buoyancy equal to that of "walking on the moon" may enable patients with hip or other lower-extremity orthopedic surgeries to begin rehabilitation soon after their operation, researchers report.

Traditionally, patients must put off rehab until they can use swimming pools, parallel bars or walking devices.

The special lower-body air pressure chamber was developed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). To use the device, the patient steps into a clear Plexiglass box, stands on an exercise treadmill and fits a Neoprene sleeve around the waist to create an airtight seal.

Technicians can adjust the air pressure in order to vary how much weight the patient experiences while on the treadmill. For example, air pressure can provide buoyancy so the patient's legs carry just 5 percent to 10 percent of their actual body weight while exercising.

As the patient's surgical wounds heal and they begin to regain strength and flexibility, the pressure in the chamber and the amount of body weight carried is gradually increased to match his or her progress.

The UCSD team tested the chamber with nine healthy volunteers, aged 20 to 55. They found that standing, walking and exercising on the treadmill with the lower body at high positive air pressure is safe.

Details about the pressure chamber were presented this weekend at the Experimental Biology conference, in San Diego.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has information about exercises following knee arthroscopy.

SOURCE: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, news release, April 3, 2005

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