Antigravity treadmill takes a load off for Lockport woman
BY DENISE M. BARAN-UNLAND Correspondent September 2, 2013 10:16PM
Physical therapist Cindy Yap helps knee replacement patient Judy Meister, 66, of Lockport, exercise on the new antigravity treadmill at Lemont Center Nursing and Rehabilitation. | Supplied photo
Updated: October 4, 2013 6:14AM
When Judy Meister heard the words, “Do you have a cookie sheet?” she knew that part-time, in-home physical therapy for her left knee replacement was not for her.
Instead, Meister, 66, of Lockport, chose nearly a month of inpatient therapy at Lemont Center, a nursing and rehabilitation facility, and became one of the first there to use Alter G, an antigravity treadmill.
The treadmill increases mobility and decreases the time before a patient achieves pain relief and recovery, said Cindy Yap, a physical therapist at Lemont Center. It individualizes rehabilitation by allowing patients to walk as if they were carrying between 20 and 100 percent of their body weight.
“I was even a model for other patients so they could see how it worked,” Meister said.
Meister, whose osteoarthritis had worn away the cartilage in her knees, had been in need of two knee replacement surgeries for a long time but just wasn’t ready to undergo them, she said, even though her left knee had become deformed.
“Ninety percent of recovery isn’t what they’re going to do for you. It’s what you’re going to do,” Meister said. “After surgery comes therapy, and unless you’re ready for it, you won’t do it, no matter what people tell you.”
When the discomfort grew worse, Meister, who also battles spinal stenosis and scoliosis, began walking with a cane. Then one day at work when Meister stood up, her knee gave. The cane was now useless. Meister needed a walker.
“I was at my lowest point,” Meister said. “I was stuck in my house with nothing but four walls, a husband and a dog. At that point I thought, ‘Surgery could only make it better.’ ”
In May, Meister had a left knee replacement at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet. Both the surgery and the in-hospital physical therapy went well, Meister said.
“They don’t let you sit. They had me up the next day doing stuff,” Meister said. “But my leg hurt less than before I had the surgery and this time I knew the pain would go away.”
It was the follow-up physical therapy Meister needed that concerned her. Meister’s husband, Rod Meister, previously had undergone two knee replacement surgeries, she said, and did well with in-home physical therapy three times a week.
Meister also knew supervised sliding on a cookie sheet — which could have been part of the rehab routine — would not cut it for her.
“I needed to be in an atmosphere that would push me and give me individualized therapy,” Meister said.
Meister chose Lemont Center sight unseen, an unusual way for her to make such a momentous decision, she said. Two factors made her comfortable: First, it was just 7 miles from her home, which would simplify scheduling visits with Rod. Also, Meister’s physical therapist at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center previously had worked at Lemont Center.
The antigravity treadmill was the “best thing that ever happened” to her, she said, as it allowed Meister to exercise for 30 minutes at a time with only 30 percent of her body weight pushing on her legs.
“It was amazing,” Meister said. “When I was on it, my back didn’t hurt and my other leg didn’t hurt. It sped up my recovery time. I wanted to take it home.”
Lemont Center Nursing and Rehabilitation had just acquired the treadmill in May, Yap said. The concept for it came from NASA, which uses it as part of the astronaut exercise program, she said. It eventually was approved for rehabilitation.
“It’s helpful for anyone who’s had joint replacement surgery,” Yap said, “or anyone that has pain in the joints, knees, hips or even the back.”
When patients experience joint pain, they modify — in a negative way — how they walk, Yap said. This puts abnormal pressure on good joints and muscles and may contribute to overuse injury.
“The antigravity treadmill helps patients use their muscles correctly,” Yap said. “Patients recover faster and regain their mobility faster.”
Meister said the mobility in her replaced knee is good. She’s considering replacing the right knee in February and then turning again to the antigravity treadmill.
“If my other knee was fixed,” Meister said, “I’d be running races.”