Fieldwork Health has taken delivery of the most remarkable machine in rehabilitation and running training - an Alter-G Anti-gravity Treadmill.
This revolutionary piece of equipment allows runners (and walkers, and everyday people) to exercise in a reduced-gravity environment, working around injuries that would otherwise prevent exercise.
Fieldwork Physiotherapist Neil Drouet was the first Physiotherapist in Perth to utilise the Alter-G with his clients, and he has extensive experience using the Alter-G in both rehabilitation and training with clients.
So what is an Alter-G treadmill, and how does it work?
The machine consists of a normal treadmill, inside a large bag filled with compressed air.
The user puts on a snazzy pair of Alter-G shorts (kind of like a half-wetsuit) which then zip “into” the bag, creating an air seal.
As the machine increases the air pressure in the bag, it expands slightly and starts to lift the user partially off the ground - reducing bodyweight by anywhere up to 80%, in 1% increments.
Unlike deep-water running or underwater treadmills, you aren’t floating, and your body can move quite freely within the confines of the machine.
Your feet are on the floor, and you are able to maintain a relatively normal running technique while enjoying the benefits of reduced load on each footstrike.
Who would benefit from using the Alter-G Treadmill?
Clients fall into two categories - rehabilitation and training (or a blend of both as they start to resume training):
This machine was built for rehabilitating injuries! More often than not, a client is unable to run (or walk) due to an injury that is healing (or chronic).
As physios, we often have to make the decision on when an injured bodypart is ready to absorb full load (weight x gravity) again.
With the Alter-G, we are able to reduce the load to a level that your injury can handle, allowing you run very early on in the healing process. The benefits of this include:
Specifically building/maintaining strength and endurance in a running movement (and therefore in the way that the body will be working in the future), as opposed to isolated and less “natural” exercises
Practicing the “skill” of running (to maintain movement quality and efficiency)
Maintaining sanity while training is restricted!
Any injury that is affected by loading can be effectively managed on the Alter-G. Examples of injuries that respond well to training on the Alter-G include:
Shin splints/lower limb bone stress injuries (NOT fractures until healing is sufficient)
Knee and patella injuries
Post-surgery - ankles, knees and hips
Muscle tears - calf, quads, glutes
Low back injury or soreness
But I am not injured, how can the Alter-G help my running?
For athletes that are uninjured, the Alter-G can allow them to increase their training load more safely.
This could mean adding an extra run or two per week (increasing volume/kms) or adding in some extra high-intensity training/speedwork (especially when the training volume is already high, or for athletes who don’t handle the added intensity well).
Some examples where this may apply are:
Ironman and 70.3 Triathlon athletes, who may want to spend more time running but already have a high overall training load, allowing running volume or intensity to be increased more safely, with less need for extra recovery.
Runners training for Marathons, Ultras etc who want more kms per week but are struggling to increase due to injuries/soreness, or who want to incorporate extra speedwork into their already high training load.
A runner or triathlete who is taping may be able to maintain more speed or mileage in the leadup to their race, without jeopardising recovery and freshness.
The Alter-G is an excellent machine for adding effective speedwork to a training plan - by reducing bodyweight slightly (between 10 and 30%), a runner can run FASTER than they would be able to on the road or track, forcing increases in cadence and stride length in a safe manner.
By learning how to run fast without being limited by fitness, an athlete can then take to the road for speedwork sessions with a large part of the adaptations already there.
How do I book a session on the Alter-G at Fieldwork Health?
If it is your first time using the Alter-G, you will need to book a New Patient appointment (if you haven’t been a patient at the clinic before) or a Standard Patient appointment.
Please book this by phone (NOT online) by calling 08 6468 6825 and let our reception know that you want to use the Alter-G - they will ensure that it is free for your appointment.
Your Physio will then complete an assessment to make sure you are suitable for it, and guide you through your first session. This session is rebateable on Private Health if you have Physiotherapy cover.
But I have previously used the Alter G before...
If you have used the Alter-G previously at another clinic, but are a new client to Fieldwork, you will still need to attend an Initial Client Assessment, however this is a shorter appointment. Please let reception know if you have used the machine before.
Once you have completed an Initial Client Assessment, then you can move to using the Alter-G unsupervised.
These sessions can be booked in multiples of 60 mins, which includes getting in and out the machine (allowing 50-55min of running if you are quick!).
Unsupervised sessions are much cheaper than supervised ones, but as a Physiotherapist is not consulting you these sessions do not attract a private health rebate.