Kaweah Delta physical therapist David Gaylor stands in front of the dynamic force plate on the Balance Master. Gaylor said that this equipment has helped patients make great progress in regaining their balance and coordination after suffering neurological conditions and brain injuries, along with the elderly.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
Issues with coordination and balance are being met head-on at the Kaweah Delta Rehabilitation Hospital in Visalia with a new piece of therapy equipment.
The new equipment, the SMART Balance Master, is being used for such patients as elderly stroke victims, those with spinal injuries and those recovering from brain cancer and brain surgery. Natalie Symanski, 32, is one patient to benefit from the Balance Master. Symanski, who went through brain surgery for a genetic condition, was having difficulty walking, climbing stairs and performing other basic functions. With the help of the Balance Master, she is getting her life back.
“That machine is amazing,” she said.
David Gaylor, a physical therapist for Kaweah Delta, said that the equipment has two pieces to help the patient. The first piece — the static force plate — serves to measure how one is able to shift their weight and assess their steadiness.
“What’s nice about this is it’s computerized and it’s set up with a system that measures and has norms for all the different tests that we do,” Gaylor said. “So for a person in their 60s, we know that they should be able to do a certain task with a certain ability. And if the person falls below that norm, then it gives us input. And for every task that we do on the force plate, we have those norms, and for different age groups.”
The second part of the Balance Master — the dynamic force plate — will tilt forwards and backwards and to the right and left. It then measures the patient’s reaction to changes in balance. Therapists can further add a visual component called a “surround” that will move as well. The patient, wearing a safety harness, will also have make corrections in their balance as they are fed false measurements on the screen.
“So you may be standing on the force plate, looking at the screen, and then the fourth plate may tilt under your feet wile the surround is moving at the same time,” Gaylor said. “So it’s a lot of conflicting input that gets processed and then [you] respond and react to it.”
Gaylor said that the machine has greatly aided in the recovery process, and noted that the Balance Master’s ability to track progress has further served to motivate patients along the way.
“I can have definitive information about how much they’ve improved,” Gaylor said.