Gait deviations associated with post-stroke hemiparesis: improvement during treadmill walking using weight support, speed, support stiffness, and handrail hold

George Chen, Carolynn Patten, Dhara H Kothari, Felix E Zajac
Gait & Posture 2005, 22 (1): 57-62
By comparing treadmill walking in hemiparetic and non-disabled individuals at matched speeds, Chen et al. [Chen G, Patten C, Kothari DH, Zajac FE. Gait differences between individuals with post-stroke hemiparesis and non-disabled controls at matched speeds. Gait Posture (2004)] identified gait deviations that were consistent with impaired swing initiation and single limb support in the paretic limb and related compensatory strategies. Treadmill training with harness support is a promising, task-oriented approach to restoring locomotor function in individuals with post-stroke hemiparesis. To provide a rationale for the proper selection of training parameters, we assessed the potential of body weight support, treadmill speed, support stiffness, and handrail hold to improve the identified gait deviations associated with hemiparesis during treadmill walking. In the six hemiparetic subjects studied, the adjustment of each training parameter was found to improve a specific set of the gait deviations. With increased body weight support or the addition of handrail hold, percentage single limb support time on the paretic limb increased and temporal symmetry improved. With increased treadmill speed, leg kinetic energy at toe-off in the paretic limb increased but remained low relative to values in the non-paretic limb. With increased support stiffness, the exaggerated energy cost associated with raising the trunk during pre-swing and swing of the paretic limb was improved. We conclude that the proper selection of training parameters can improve the gait pattern practiced by individuals with hemiparesis during treadmill training and may improve treatment outcome.

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