Muscle Memory

Niki Stojnic  |   Seattle Health Fall/Winter 2013-2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Albert walking without his wheelchair

Stroke patients and others with conditions that have impeded their walking ability are finding new hope in a device created by Fremont-based Cadence Biomedical (877.484.7513). The culmination of research that began in 2007 in cofounder Brian Glaister’s basement and commercially launched at the end of last year, the Kickstart Walking System is sophisticated yet low tech—there’s no battery, motor or electrical parts—using a person’s own kinetic energy to help them move their legs. Over time and use, Kickstart, which looks like a leg brace and can be fitted for one or both legs, helps to retrain leg muscles, says Glaister. “The goal is to have people take a proper step over and over,” which strengthens neural patterns. The device is gaining a slow-but-steady following in Seattle and beyond: One man who once had to have his limbs physically moved through therapy exercises can now walk half a mile; another woman (now a Cadence board member) used to use a Segway to move. “Much to her husband’s chagrin, they are now taking ballroom dancing,” Glaister says, laughing. Currently, the device is custom fitted, but Cadence is working on a version of the technology that can be used in physical therapy for gait training, as well as expanding its availability and insurance coverage. Patients can contact the company for more information and to get connected with a clinician in their area for an evaluation and trial.