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Public kindness pays for space-age technology to give patients new lease of life

The Southern Health Trust is offering physiotherapy patients a new anti-gravity option as part of their rehabilitation – and it is all thanks to public donations!

Using technology developed by NASA to help astronauts exercise in space, the anti-gravity treadmills allow patients with weight bearing difficulty through injury or disease, to walk with reduced gravity.

Thanks to public donations to the Trust, around 250 patients recovering from surgery or with musculoskeletal conditions have benefitted from using the two anti-gravity treadmills since they were installed in Daisy Hill and Craigavon Area Hospitals earlier this year.

They are also beneficial for the function and wellbeing of some patients with neurological, cardiovascular or other long term conditions.

The new high-tech treadmills have all the same functionality of a normal treadmill, but by using air pressure, allow patients to exercise at partial body weight, which reduces pressure on their joints and is less painful.

Wendy Guy, Advanced Clinical Specialist ,explains: “For suitable patients, the new anti-gravity treadmill can make recovery much easier and quicker, allowing the patient to rehabilitate from surgery or injury with less pain and impact. It is beneficial for people with pain, muscle weakness or mobility problems.”

Donal Ferris, Advanced Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist, added: “Once assessed as suitable for the treadmill, a physiotherapist will set the programme to suit each patient and will monitor and advise them throughout the session on their gait and technique.

“We work with each patient to gradually build their progress and strength to ensure they reach their maximum physical capability.”

Tandragee woman Charlene Lyness is just one of the many people who have benefitted from the treadmills.

The 51-year-old is a busy mum of four grown-up children and manages a local bakery full-time.

She explained: “I suffer from severe arthritis in my knees but am too young for replacement surgery and having struggled with my weight I was in far too much pain to exercise. Along with the injections I get to manage my pain, using the anti-gravity treadmill has made such a difference to my life.

“I can now run comfortably for about 20 minutes, my overall health and fitness has greatly improved and having lost three stone in weight I am feeling much better in myself.”

Newry bus driver Jennifer Spence had to use a wheelchair following a fall that fractured her foot.

She couldn’t tolerate the pain of exercise so started using the antigravity treadmill at just 30% of her body weight, which she described as ‘floating’.

Jennifer continued: “I have gradually built up my body weight using the treadmill and have been able to progress from the wheelchair to two crutches, to just one crutch.

“I am still quite slow walking but thanks to the antigravity treadmill was able to stand up after 16 weeks. I am now able to exercise at 70% of my weight and my physiotherapist monitors my pace and posture to make sure I am progressing in the right way.”

Picture: Wendy Guy, Advanced Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist with Charlene Lyness, who is benefitting from the anti-gravity treadmills in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

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