How an exoskeleton is helping people walk again
Strokes are a leading cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Stroke Association. The impact a stroke can have on the body varies and each person’s stroke recovery is different.
An exoskeleton machine is a piece of equipment that has become an important advancement in stroke recovery.
“An exoskeleton is a great tool we can use to help a variety of patients,” says Kayla Movrich, physical therapist at Aurora Medical Center – Summit. “For patients who are recovering from a stroke, it can help with improving their walking and gait.”
The wearable suit gives stroke survivors strength and support — helping them bear their own weight and re-teaching the body how to walk again. The exoskeleton uses connected motors and joints that run on a power source. It constantly is monitoring the stroke survivor’s movement. A physical therapist or someone from the survivor’s care team walks with them and provides the level of assistance needed.
Resistance and assistance settings can be customized based on the stroke survivor’s needs. It can also be adjusted to fit their body.
“We can customize the exoskeleton to each patient based on their goals,” explains Movrich. “It’s so rewarding to see the progress a patient makes throughout their journey.”
Whether they need maximal assistance or minimal assistance, she says they can work with a stroke survivor’s individual needs and adjust the exoskeleton to help initiate and facilitate each step.
Movrich shares some additional benefits an exoskeleton can have on stroke recovery:
- Re-teaches brain and muscles how to walk: This suit can be used at any point in stroke recovery.
- Improves gait: For example, if a stroke survivors foot is dragging or their leg is facing inward or outward when they walk, the exoskeleton can help correct these gait impairments.
- Assists with mobility and balance: The exoskeleton can help the stoke survivor bear weight and improve weight shifting that is necessary to progress their walking and balance.
Along with stroke recovery, exoskeletons are commonly used in rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries, brain injuries and multiple sclerosis. Exoskeletons are being used in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
About the Author
Hannah Koerner is a Public Affairs Specialist with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. In her free time, she enjoys biking, snowshoeing, and cheering on Wisconsin sports teams.