Gait training is a fact of life for many patients with orthopedic or neurological conditions, such as arthritis, musculoskeletal injuries, Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy. One of the most important parameters for regaining walking function is repetition, but unfortunately, many patients find this type of rehabilitation to be tedious. Real-time gait biofeedback can be an important rehabilitation tool for these patients because it provides information that can help improve their self-awareness about the degree of impairment while empowering them to correct their movement trajectory – and thereby, their gait pattern.
The Inspiration Behind the Innovation
Sound-facilitated gait training has been shown to improve patients’ focus and treatment compliance – and patients say that it seems less tedious and is more enjoyable than traditional gait-training methods. This has the potential to facilitate faster motor learning, improved gait speed and better quality of walking while reducing treatment costs and the demands on physical therapists. Additionally, real-time biofeedback has shown strong potential for improving the process of gait rehabilitation.
HearWalk uses wireless sensors to capture motion-related data, which is synthesised into real-time feedback that’s communicated via a variety of auditory stimuli (i.e. sound feedback) to patients who are undergoing gait training. The resulting sound stimulus (e.g. music or sounds of nature) is closely synchronised with the patient’s movement, hence utilising multiple modalities to provide a natural cognitive integration that enhances their functional improvement and recovery.
The solution, which can be tailored to each patient’s level of impairment, aids in motor-learning recovery by providing specific and intuitive sound feedback about the patient’s gait. HearWalk can be used in clinical settings and has the potential to be further developed for tele- and home-rehabilitation – as well as to be adapted for other types of movement training beyond gait training.
Prithvi Kantan: Ph.D. Fellow; Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology; Aalborg University, Copenhagen
Helle Rovsing Jørgensen: Physiotherapist, Master in Rehabilitation; Department of Neurorehabilitation; North Denmark Regional Hospital
Sofia Dahl: Associate Professor; Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology; Aalborg University, Copenhagen
Erika G. Spaich: Associate Professor; Department of Health Science and Technology; Aalborg University