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Run on air with Nicholson Physical Therapy's AlterG anti-gravity treadmill

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

(Photo)
Rachel Nicholson watches her steps on a monitor as she walks on Nicholson Physical Therapy's new AlterG anti-gravity treadmill. Users wear spandex shorts, and are zipped into the bottom portion of the machine, which then fills with air. Precise displacement of body weight can be attained, allowing patients who have conditions prohibiting them from exercise or those who are recovering from surgery to still get in a good workout with much less impact. / photo by Ashley Miller
Nicholson Physical Therapy is now offering patients and customers a chance to slip in a little bit of moonwalking with the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill during their exercise routine.

The Storm Lake physical therapy provider is one of six in the state of Iowa and one of 300 in the U.S. who offer the cutting-edge device, which uses NASA's differential air technology.

Physical therapists, leading medical facilities and professional athletes are discovering the advantages of the machine and putting it to use for recovering from surgery or exercising during an injury.

Using the AlterG is a straightforward process. Users slip on tight spandex shorts over their pants, zippering the shorts' bell-shaped top into the air chamber casing around the lower portion of the treadmill. An airtight seal is then created as the chamber fills up with air, gently lifting a user up to a selected body weight.

Impact on joints is lessened, allowing patients to walk or run with as low as 20 percent or as high as 100 percent of their body weight.

Body weight exercises, such as squats or lunges, can also be performed on the AlterG.

The AlterG has built-in cameras in the air chamber, allowing users a peek at their feet on the treadmill. Nicholson also has several DVDs that provide a pleasant workout experience, making users feel as if they were going on a hike through the woods.

Todd Nicholson, owner of Nicholson Physical Therapy, said the AlterG is good for patients recovering from lower extremity injuries of the hip, knee, ankle or foot, or for those suffering from low back pain. Due to the machine's precise unweighting, it can show improvement and documentation for an insurance company.

He first heard about the AlterG through a retired physical therapist, who was trying to find a way to exercise again, despite having arthritic knees. While the therapist was unable to accommodate the large machine in his home, he suggested Nicholson Therapy research it to see if it would be worthwhile for patients.

After Nicholson tried out the machine in Des Moines, he saw its potential benefits for patients and community.

While pool therapy can offer similar benefits, it is not comparable.

"You can't get a normal walking pattern in a pool," Nicholson explained, noting patients recovering from surgery are often not cleared for pool exercise due to stitches.

Even though he's only had the machine for less than a week, curious patients are stopping by to see how it works. So far, two have used it, with more signing up for monthly memberships.

The first patient to use the AlterG was a teenage girl, recovering from a torn muscle in her hip.

"She had built up to jogging, but it cause pain," he said. "After using air to displace her body weight, she could run pain-free for 15 minutes."

As well as serving as a fun, new way to exercise, the Alter G also can be a motivational weight loss tool for obese or overweight patients. For example, a 200-pound person can feel how the impact on their joints would decrease if they lost 50 pounds.

Three and six-month AlterG memberships are available. Members can either wear the provided spandex shorts over their clothes, or purchase their own pair.

To learn more, call Nicholson Physical Therapy at 712-213-8184.