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Effect of Partial Body Weight Support Treadmill Training on Measures of Balance and Gait in an Older Adult

1 May 2005


Background and Purpose. Partial body weight support treadmill training (PBWSTT) has been documented to improve balance, gait speed, and gait symmetry in patients who have experienced a stroke, spinal cord injury, or traumatic brain injury. Although PBWSTT has been used extensively with patients with neurological problems, no studies have been done to measure the effect of PBWSTT on the elderly population at a high risk for falls. The task specific nature of PBWSTT may yield similar improvements in older. adults with balance problems and changes in gait. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of PBWSTT on the balance and gait characteristics of an older adult with a history of falls.

Methods. A single subject A-B-A-A design with multiple measures was used. The subject was a 97-year-old female with a history of balance problems and falls. The Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Modified Falls Efficacy Scale (MFES), and the GAITRite computerized gait analysis system were utilized in data collection. The Al phase consisted of outcome measures gathered four times per week for two weeks to establish a baseline. The B phase, the intervention phase, consisted of PBWSTT three times per week for four weeks with outcome measures recorded at two of the three sessions each week. The A2 phase immediately followed the B phase and mirrored the Al phase. The A3 phase was scheduled to be performed five months after the B phase and mirror the Al phase. Data was analyzed using the two standard deviation band method.

Results. The subject demonstrated significant increases in BBS scores, velocity, cadence, stride length, and significant decreases in base of support measurements in the B and A2 phases. As a result of a change in the subject' s medical status, data was not collected for the A3 phase.

Discussion and Conclusion. A 97-year-old female with a history of balance deficits and falls was found to benefit from a four-week training program of partial body weight support treadmill training as demonstrated by improvements in balance and gait characteristics. These improvements were maintained throughout the two-week follow up. Larger randomized controlled studies of older people at a high risk for falls and reevaluation of subjects to determine long-term carryover are needed to confirm our results.


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