Fort Riley, Kansas



mTBI uses aquatic, balance therapy to heal

By Katherine Rosario | health | November 16, 2011

The mild Traumatic Brain Injury clinic recently received a new balance machine to help patients correct their brain's interpretation of balance.

The NeuroCom Balance Manager records balance data using the patient's vision and brain's interpretation of movement that it uses to formulate a therapy routine to help get their balance back on track.

Jennifer Zentz, physical therapist at the clinic, said the machine tells patients where they have a balance deficit and then gives them a series of exercises to work on to strengthen their balance.

"The platform the patient stands on moves back and forth with varying motion, and the patient has to react to those changes," Zentz said, adding the patient is harnessed in to keep them from losing balance and falling.

The unique plates on the platform read the patient's body movements and how they shift to regain balance.

"It can tell what side of the body is stronger and what side needs to be strengthened," she said. "The machine tests static and dynamic balance and visual activity and how the patient perceives the environment."

A flat screen monitor is located at eye-level on the machine where the patient practices a series of movements like moving a picture of a person from one block on the screen to another by seeing the image on the screen and using their weight to move the image.

"This equipment is good for any balance dysfunction or spinal cord injury," Zentz said.

Treatment on the machine usually takes place twice a week until significant improvement is noticed and the exercises are no longer needed.

Sgt. Wilson Bachert, Warrior Transition Battalion, said he has already noticed an improvement in his balance since starting the therapy last month.

"When I'm doing everyday activities, I can feel the difference. I don't think my healing process would have been as quick without this machine," Bachert said.

When asked to move the picture of the person to squares on the video screen, he is able to easily lean his weight and guide the picture into the square.

"I can move to the required spot quicker on the screen now, when before, it took me a bit longer," he said.

Spc. Chris Burke, Warrior Transition Battalion, said he likes the machine because it tracks and prints out his progress.

"I like that it prints out how I did compared to my last sessions because it shows me qualifying improvement," he said.

Another therapy is aquatic lessons the clinic offers to Soldiers each week.

At 6:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday, Soldiers gather for a community therapy lesson at Eyster pool, where they work on strengthening their muscles.

The idea is to target the muscle groups for balance and improve the core muscles, Zentz said.

"A lot of deep-water jogging and use of water treadmills is involved within the hour training," she said. "It's really well received by the Soldiers."

Bachert said running on land hurts his neck too much, but in the water, he is free of pain.

"I think when I first got in the pool, I was afraid to use my range of motion for fear that I would reinjure something. But when you put me in the water, it's amazing how much I can kick and swim," he said.

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