Laufband (treadmill) therapy in incomplete paraplegia and tetraplegia

J Neurotrauma. 1999 Aug;16(8):719-26. doi: 10.1089/neu.1999.16.719.


Recent reports indicate that intensive training of upright walking on a treadmill (German: Laufband, LB), significantly improves walking capability in spinal cord-damaged persons. The aids provided initially are body weight support by a harness and passive setting of one or both limbs by therapists. To facilitate stepping and evoke motor automatisms, "rules of spinal locomotion" need to be applied during training. The effects of this novel locomotion therapy on patients with chronic and acute incomplete paralysis are summarized and discussed here. Many patients with chronic paralysis, still wheelchair-bound and not capable of walking without help from others, became independent and learned to walk for some distance without help. Assessment of voluntary muscle activity in resting position before and after the period of therapy often showed only small increases, rendering the involvement of complex motor reflexes (motor programs) and better utilization of remaining muscle function during walking as main sources for the improvements in locomotion. This idea is supported by electromyographic recordings. Follow-up assessments performed 0.5 to 6.5 years after discharge from the hospital show that the significant improvements achieved by LB-therapy in patients with initially chronic paralysis can be maintained under domestic surrounding. Patients with initially acute paralysis improved their walking capabilities even further. It is suggested that LB therapy may be generally applied in the motor rehabilitation of persons with acute and chronic incomplete paraplegia and tetraplegia. Its use in other diseases is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Paraplegia / physiopathology*
  • Paraplegia / therapy*
  • Quadriplegia / physiopathology*
  • Quadriplegia / therapy*
  • Walking / physiology