Locomotor Training Therapy

patient engaging in locomotor training

Locomotor Training: Encouraging movement and progress.

Offered at our Squirrel Hill location, this outpatient program allows our patients to repetitively practice standing and stepping with the assistance of body weight support, a specialized treadmill, and hands-on input from physical therapists and technicians. It’s a technique that’s on the forefront of physical therapy and it can achieve remarkable results.

Locomotor Training

A typical Locomotor Training session will last one and a half hours. These therapy sessions typically occur 3-5 times a week. Using a highly specialized treadmill, harness and computer system as well as other treatments, the therapist will focus on repeated cues to specific muscle groups at specific times during a functional task, such as:

  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Moving from sitting to standing
  • Maintaining balance in sitting and standing
  • Running

Who We Treat

At this time, referrals for the Locomotor Training program are being accepted for individuals with any neurologic dysfunction. They must be evaluated for appropriateness by our therapy team prior to initiating this intervention.

Participants also must meet the following requirements:

  • Be no taller than 6’6’’ 
  • Weigh less than 300 pounds
  • Tolerate supported standing for an hour
  • Commit, along with the caregiver, to therapy 3-5 times a week for several weeks
  • Be able to carry over therapy activities at home
  • Provide a physiatrist’s consent 

What to Expect During Locomotor Training

The first 30 minutes of the treatment session prepare the patient for activities; this may involve stretching and putting on a support harness.

Following this warm-up, the next part of the treatment session is spent on a treadmill. The patient is suspended over the treadmill by the harness. A computer that is part of the specialized treadmill system used in the Locomotor Program adjusts the amount of weight that the patient puts on his or her legs. Adjusting the amount of weight that a patient uses on a treadmill is called body weight support (BWS). The BWS and the hands-on placement of up to four staff members is what makes this program distinct from other programs that may use only BWS or mechanical gait training.

Making the mind/body connection

Locomotor Training is based on the latest knowledge of how the brain and spinal cord control stepping and how the nervous system learns a motor skill.

Guided by this information as well as a deep understanding of each child’s abilities, a team of trained experts including physical therapists, physical therapy assistants and locomotor technicians work with each patient. Although no two patients respond to Locomotor Training in the exact same way, nearly all see some type of benefit, whether it’s improved recovery of independent walking or enhanced well-being and overall health.

An impressive 4:1 staff-to-patient ratio.

It’s not unusual to have four members of our staff involved in a single patient’s Locomotor Training therapy session. This high staff-to-patient ratio enables each child to use the correct muscles and maintain the best posture. It also allows for safer activities.

The four principles of Locomotor Training

Although our treatments are always highly individualized, there are four basic principles that are used at our facility and in the design of each child’s home exercise program.

Principle 1: Increase the amount of weight that the patient places on their legs during activity, while decreasing the amount of weight used by their arms.
Principle 2: Provide regular and correct hands-on cues to the patient while he or she is performing functional activities.
Principle 3: Provide the patient with enough hands on support to ensure good posture during all of their functional activities.
Principle 4: Maximize each patient’s level of independence, while decreasing the compensations used to perform functional activities.

Learn more about Locomotor Training on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation website. 

Locomotor Training is available at our Squirrel Hill location. 

Download printable information here:
Locomotor Training Therapy

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