BEND, Ore. - A growing number of athletes in Central Oregon and around the country are rehabilitating their injuries lately by turning to anti-gravity treadmills to speed up their recovery time.
Even Kobe Bryant is using one to rehab his torn Achilles tendon.
Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy in Bend has the only one east of the Oregon Cascades.
If the anti-gravity treadmill seems like some sort of space-age invention, it actually is.
It was initially developed by NASA for exercise regimens for their astronauts.
"It's almost like you're walking on the moon, if you really pump it up. If more than 50 percent of your body weight is reduced, it feels like you're springing without any gravity," said Chuck Brockman, the facility's director of physical therapy..
"I always tell people it kinda feels like a wedgie a little bit. It's a little awkward. Make sure you go to the bathroom before," said Valerie Marshall, a physical therapist aide.
The biggest advantage of the anti-gravity treadmill is the pressure it takes off your bones and your joints when rehabbing an injury.
"It definitely makes not as much of an impact or force with every step. If you have some aches in pains in your knees or hips, you definitely don't feel that at all," Marshall said.
Over 50 percent of Therapeutic Associates patients use the treadmill for rehab purposes, but it can also teach athletes to run faster, as well as help people lose weight.
"We have cameras on the outside that can look through the bubble and there's a built-in camera in the front. You can look at all different types of angles, you can look at your legs and your feet and assess what's going on biomechanically," Brockman said.
And it's that camera technology that proves to be a useful teaching tool for physical therapy.
"We're trying to coach them on normal mechanics when they're walking, so that's the whole deal: we want to get them moving sooner, which is beneficial without stressing their joints or whatever their surgery is," Brockman said.
"And we'll give them cues, and then they can watch it and have instant feedback of what's right and what's wrong, and try to replicate that," he explained.