Locomotor training a waste of time?

Maybe I’ve been paralyzed too long, but there are a bunch of new therapy programs out there that I question.

Let me preemptively say that locomotor training has a lot of great benefits (it’s good for weight-bearing, making your muscles move, organ-hanging party time). It’s a pretty intense therapy where they strap you into a harness (that’s attached to a bar above your head) and hang you above a treadmill.

Then they hook your legs up to an electric stimulator that moves the necessary muscles in your legs that are required to walk, and assistants help move your feet. And walk you do, on a treadmill for as long as your body (and pocketbook) will allow.

The issue I have with locomotor training is that it’s being touted as pretty miraculous. It isn’t (I’m still waiting for the real miracle therapy to show it‘s face). It’s fancy, it’s pretty nifty, even some researchers say that repetitive use of locomotor training may awake “muscle memory,” which could return the ability to move and feel one’s legs.

This notion was first championed by Christopher Reeve actually. I want to believe it works, but I’ve yet to see any complete injury walk off a locomotor treadmill on their own after using it for an extended period This isn’t a challenge; I’m sure there are a lot of incompletes who it’s helped walk again, but for the completes….can it really help us walk?

Another issue I have is that it’s so damned expensive. Most state insurances won’t cover it unless you’re a brand new injury. It has become an elitist type of therapy, which is sadly the way a lot of new SCI therapies are becoming. Avatar, anyone?

Also, for a lot of people who are limited by insurance, once they get into it (which can take at least 15 to 20 minutes to get into), their time for the actual walking is almost eaten up. I’ve had two friends tell me this personally (and they’ve switched over to using just a FES bike combined with a standing frame instead).

What’s your opinion of locomotor training? Have you tried it? Or am I wrong about it completely? Share your thoughts!

- Learn more about locomotor training from the Reeve Foundation

- Watch a video of locomotor training from Next Step

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