One difficulty of rehabilitation after an incomplete spinal cord injury is that bearing weight during gait training can fatigue and discourage the patient. Some attempts to counter this challenge have been made by using a harness while the patient walks on a treadmill. However, the harness can be uncomfortable and damage skin in patients with reduced sensation. A new method using an underwater treadmill has recently been tested and has shown positive results.
Patients were partially submerged in water, which maintained enough buoyancy to minimize their weight-bearing problems. The treadmill helped to establish a natural stepping pattern, and walking speed was gradually increased. Patients who completed the program had improved gait and stability, as well as increased self-confidence.
Stevens S, & Morgan DW. Underwater treadmill training in adults with incomplete spinal cord injuries. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. (December 2010).