Balance & Coordination

ue Fulgham has had more than her share of physical ailments.

She has had three hip replacements, two broken femurs, knee replacement and a ruptured disc in her back. In June, she suffered a fall that left her with a broken femur.

Joe Imel/Daily News
Sue Fulgham (left) of Logan County works on her balance Tuesday with help from physical therapist Alison Lewis on the new Biodex Balance System machine at Bluegrass Outpatient Center.

“If my leg had gotten infected, I would’ve lost my leg,” the Logan County woman said. “I was in a hospital bed all summer.”

The fall also left her with a slightly off-balance gait.

“I leaned forward and to the side. My balance was off,” said Fulgham, tilting her hand to the right to show the way her body leaned. “I started physical therapy in September.”

About three weeks ago, she started working on a new machine called the Biodex Balance System at Bluegrass Outpatient Center. The facility received it about a month ago.

“As far as I know, we’re the only clinic in the area with this equipment,” said Gabe Smith, a physical therapist at Bluegrass Outpatient. “It’s an interactive piece of equipment we use for patients who are at high risk for falling or balance problems.”

The system allows therapists to assess and track patients’ fall risks, Smith said.

“There has been some standardized testing with the machine that links the data we record with the machine to the actual risk of falling.

“With that information, we have the patient exercise on the machine,” he said. “Our goal is to improve balance and coordination and, ultimately, reduce the risk of having a fall.”

The patients stand on a platform that acts like it’s on the end of a rod or pencil, Smith said.

“We can control the amount of movement the platform can or cannot do. That’s how it becomes more or less challenging for the patient,” he said. “They’re looking at a screen that translates their movement and the movement of the platform on the screen. They can see on the screen how they’re doing it and can compare week to week how they are progressing. It’s motivating for them. It’s an important aspect of rehabilitating these patients.”

Fulgham agreed.

“The machine shows me how it feels to be balanced. The (platform) is loose, and if you go off balance it moves,” she said. “If you keep balanced, it stays straight. It’s hard to keep that dot (on the screen) in the center and keep it straight.”

The Biodex System can help patients with various ailments, including peripheral myopathy, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and some post-surgical issues with pelvis, legs or back or balance issues, Smith said.

“We are seeing a lot of patients in the clinic specifically for balance issues, vestibular issues, who are suffering falls. It’s a huge health problem with our adults,” he said. “We wanted a comprehensive tool to use to measure and see how successful our patient rehabilitation could be. It makes it efficient and streamlined.”

Fulgham believes her balance is getting better with the help of therapy, which, in addition to the Biodex system, includes time on a stationary bike, squats, leg lifts and walking. In a month, she will see her doctor to see if she needs to continue therapy.

“I notice a difference when I look at myself in the mirror. My balance is equalized on both sides,” she said. “This morning I was walking straight, and I’m really thankful for that. If I’ve had to go through it, I’m glad I had to go through it here.”

— Bluegrass Outpatient Center does free fall risk assessments. For more information or to set up an appointment, call 782-3322.