I never expected to say that Charlie would be able to manage the treadmill- we didn’t even consider it…
One day, at a family gathering at my aunties house, Charlie decided to climb on a stationary treadmill to copy his little friends- the arm supports were just high enough for him to hold and were just the right distance apart. My cousin who was keeping her eye on Charlie and his other cousins decided to turn it on, lo-and-behold Charlie paced quite evenly and comfortably!!
Due to the novelty value Charlie loved the treadmill, especially as his 5yo cousin wanted to do it with him. At a massive speed of 1 kph he plodded along quite well but even more importantly he thought it was fun!
I had never considered the idea of a mechanical aid like a treadmill- thinking it more of an exercise aid. Even less had I considered that there was a huge volume of literature supporting its use in CP children! Systematic reviews are a very powerful type of scientific literature as they review many studies in one- they try to extrapolate all the useful info in a particular subject, treadmill training for children with CP.
Needless to say the treadmill soon made an appearance at our house (thanks to Aunty J and Uncle M). The beauty of it is that Charlie does not see it as therapy or as exercise- only a plaything and sometimes a swing. He regularly asks to go on the ‘running machine’ and ‘faster, faster’. He tends to manage 3-5mins at a time which even at a constant 1 kph is more at once than he manages with his walker (on his walker he tends to run, glide, stop, explore repeat etc). Due to the constant speed and risk of falling off he does tend to keep his walking rhythm quite well. He does often sing as he goes, ‘knees up mother Brown’ is a favourite and he can be easily coerced into another minute of so when Peppa is on the TV.
Obviously he is always directly supervised and many treadmills have a ‘deadman’ cord, a clip attached by a magnet to the machine which disables the power if it is pulled off. He supports himself with his hands but many Physio’s have facility to support a child with a harness. Charlie will often use the treadmill in just socks- it is a bit more risky (due to potential fiction burns) if he falls but he is able to manage his stride pattern better than in shoes. It is also great for assessing his ‘gait’ (walking pattern) to see where his muscle weaknesses/imbalances are. Just by doing this we have been able to highlight hip flexor and adductor muscle weaknesses and adjust therapy accordingly.
Another great benefit of having the treadmill at home is for Lou and myself to use. Having a disabled child is no excuse to neglect our own health and fitness- but we often find very little time to devote to ourselves. Having the treadmill at home means we are able to run when he goes to bed (although probably not as regularly as we should or need to…)