If the sky was the limit and I could arrange absolutely anything I wanted in a physical therapy program here is what I would design:
- Treadmills to practice walking and running on a various speeds and inclines. In addition to the treadmill there would be a safety harness or bungee seat device to catch you if you trip, lose balance, and fall. There would be a second person (the therapist naturally) to operate the controls at your command. I found changing speeds and inclines is incredibly difficult at higher speeds if you are trying to hold on to both side bars of the treadmill to maintain balance and your eyes are jiggling around like crazy which inhibits reading the darn thing. Oh and of course the treadmill would be in a room the simulated the surroundings of the outdoors seeing as I can't hear (deaf) and I cannot read the captioning on a tv (due to oscillopsia).
- The facility would include a pool of ankle to knee depth which simulates the swiftness and power of a current in a river. In addition, the underwater terrain would include uneven footing such as river rocks. The therapist would hold ones hand and have a safety rope to pull the person up if they fall over.
- Of course there would be a regular swimming pool as well with lots of practice swimming with a mask and underwater as well as above. In depths of 4-5 feet the therapist would practice spotting the person with imbalance while the person shuts their eyes and tries adjusting to the orientation underwater and finding the surface with no mask. In addition, there would be practice learning to swim efficiently again and instruction and practice at treading water in depths exceeding 6 feet.
- There would be a nice flat track for rollerblading. Walkers with wheels and brakes would be available and practice on how to rollerblade again.
- An obstacle/hiking course would consist of uneven board walk about 3 feet in width which changes in 90 degree angles. Some boardwalk would be at ground level whereas some would be about 3 feet off the ground. A spotter is next to the physical therapy patient at all times in case of a fall or momentary loss of balance (those 90 degree turns are hard!!!!).
- Curbs in a straight line surrounded by sand or some other soft material would be installed outside. The patient would practice walking on the curb in a straight path.
- Paths of different materials (deep sand, rocks increasing in size to the size of large river rock) would be implemented. The person with imbalance would practice walking on these paths with poles, unaided and without a pack, with a pack and poles, and eventually with only a pack if possible. The pack size would change in weight as the person increased in strength and balance (starting at 10 pounds and possible increasing to 70 pounds).
- There would be a nice hiking path with smaller hills and a moderate grade. Crushed gravel is nice but not always available in real life. There would also be various hills for practicing on going up and coming down (going down is very difficult!).
- Stairs (heaven forbid they are scary). This would be a better indoor exercise if a harness can be attached. The idea is for the person to gain strength and practice going down stairs (going up is much better, much easier, and less fearful).
- Remember those rooms fulls of balls that you can jump into when you were a kid? Or even those big air filled things that kids jump around inside. Well these would serve a two fold purpose. First, from what I remember about them, they were hard to walk and balance on but you did not hurt yourself when you fell. These would be great for helping people work out the muscles needed for balance. Also, it would be interesting to use it as a similator for getting up on water skiies. I used to LOVE waterskiing. However, I no longer have the balance to stand up. In the simulator, there could be a device to mimic the tow rope behind a boat. A person could sit on the ground and practice standing up with the tow rope. If the person falls over, there is nice cushioning available.
Okay, I know I have given lots of thought to this but these are the main ones I remember at the moment. I have quite the imagination, don't I? Well it is time to hit the hay! Have a good night!