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NASA-based technology key to Scott Township's NovaCare machine's rehab abilities

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 11:05 a.m.
Mary Crookshank of Peters Township uses the Alter G anti gravity treadmill to rehabilitate an injury she sustained from excessive running at NovaCare Rehabilitation on Vanadium Road in Scott Township. Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Mary Crookshank stands in an inflatable chamber from the waist down that takes the weight off of extremities at NovaCare Rehabilitation on Vanadium Road in Scott Township. Crookshank is rehabilitating from a running injury. Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Mary Crookshank stands in an inflatable chamber from the waist down that takes the weight off of extremities at NovaCare Rehabilitation on Vanadium Road in Scott Township. Crookshank is rehabilitating from a running injury. Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item

Mary Crookshank hopes to run again with the help of “space-age” rehabilitation at NovaCare Rehabilitation in Scott Township.

For two years, Crookshank, 31, ran about seven miles nearly every day.

“I'm a mobile person. I love to get outdoors and run. That's what I like to do,” said Crookshank, of Peters, a cardiac nurse.

Then, late last year, Crookshank noticed pain in her upper right hip following her runs. She had a stress fracture in her hip.

“I was terrified, because I knew that mobility was the key to my job,” she said.

Following surgery in January, she now is undergoing rehabilitation at NovaCare's facility on Vanadium Road.

Her rehabilitation includes the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill, which uses NASA-based technology to enable faster rehabilitation and safer conditioning.

As of last week, Crookshank had been using the machine for three weeks. She goes to NovaCare three days a week and uses the AlterG for 25-minute workouts, she said.

This machine has made a difference for her, Crookshank said.

“I feel it has allowed me to expand my range of motion, conditioning and strength,” she said.

The AlterG allows the opportunity for rehabilitation from surgery, or to train through injury, without pain.

The machine gives athletes and others the ability to exercise at a lower body weight, thus lowering the impact on joints. Those who have used it say it is almost like “walking on air,” said Chris Zanke, a physical therapist and vice-president of operations at NovaCare.

Using Differential Air Pressure technology, developed at NASA, the treadmill applies a uniform lifting force to a person's body.

“Anyone having trouble with their knees, hips, ankles, anything like that, can benefit from this,” Zanke said.

With the AlterG, patients can run or walk without bearing their entire weight, reducing the impact on the body to optimize rehabilitation, weight loss and physical therapy outcomes.

Some professional athletes who have succumbed to hip, knee and ankle injuries are now using the AlterG, said Doug Donald, an orthopedic manual therapist at NovaCare.

“With the AlterG, it allows people and athletes to return to work, sports and other day-to-day activities a lot quicker and safer,” Donald said.

Crookshank returned to work this week; she hopes to get back to running this summer.

“I love my job. I miss the patient interaction. I miss my co-workers,” Crookshank said.

Only three of the AlterGs exist in Pennsylvania; NovaCare has two of them, with the other being at its location in Moon Township.

Jeff Widmer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5810 or jwidmer@tribweb.com.

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