The Difference Between a Walker and a Gait Trainer

February 2nd, 2022 by Jorge Ramos

The Difference Between a Walker and a Gait Trainer

Ambulation is the ability to walk from one place to another, with or without an assistive device. Human development begins with crawling until reaching vertical ambulation. This typically begins at around 9 months of age and the ability to walk between 12 and 18 months. When beginning to ambulate, the infant develops a stronger involvement with their environment since they are on the same plane as the rest of the people around him. This allows better interaction with people and objects in the environment.

There are situations in which children can present neuromotor dysfunctions where development is limited by compensatory movement patterns, less stability, greater muscle tone, rigidity and/or weakness. Children with cerebral palsy often have increased tonicity and spasticity, less postural and sometimes head control, a range of mobility limitations, or orthopedic deformities. These disorders can limit typical gait patterns, the ability to stand upright without support, and the overall endurance and strength needed to walk unassisted.

Given the value of mobility in a child's overall development, encouraging the option of independent mobility is extremely important. To achieve mobility, there are different options on the market that will help us achieve the goal. In this case, it is important to make the difference between a walker and a gait trainer.

Walkers are devices that improve stability in patients with lower limb weakness or poor balance by increasing the patient's base of support in addition to tolerating the patient's weight. Despite this, walkers can be difficult to maneuver and can contribute to poor posture and decreased movement of the upper limbs. There are several types of walkers like standard, ones with wheels in front, and ones with four wheels. The four-wheeled walkers are also known as “Rollators.” It is important to mention that walkers are equipment that help with the ambulation of patients who already have an established pattern and for different reasons have lost the strength of the lower limbs, muscular diseases or neuropathies, claudication, pulmonary diseases or heart failure.

We have on the other hand the gait trainers. These are pieces of equipment that help a person who cannot walk independently learn or relearn how to walk safely as part of gait training. Gait trainers can be used by children or adults with physical disabilities to provide an opportunity to improve their ability to walk. Gait trainers provide the user with weight-bearing support as well as postural alignment. They compare to a walker, but provide more balance assistance and weight support than a 4-wheel walker or a walker with arm supports. They also provides the opportunity to stand up from a sitting position with excellent weight tolerance.

Gait trainers have different applications and may be beneficial for users with spinal cord injuries, pelvic or lower limb fractures, joint replacements or injuries, lower limb amputations, strokes or neurological disorders, muscular dystrophies or other neuromuscular disorders.

For children, gait trainers provide exceptional support for those who are unable to hold onto a walker or stand up unsupported. Gait trainers provide support at the trunk level in addition to different supports for upper and lower limbs. Gait trainers are many times larger than walkers and therefore more stable.

Some specific cases in which children can benefit from walking trainers are:

  • Children with increased adductor tone and who tend to make a scissor pattern. Ankle supports will help decrease the pattern. It is also important to consider giving good support at the trunk level.

  • For a child with impaired head control, consider a trainer with head support. Arm and trunk supports can also help.

  • For children with low strength and endurance, a gait trainer with a seat or saddle can allow for for short periods of rest.

  • Children who exhibit strong flexor tone when using the arm support causing poor posture are going to benefit from just using the trunk support and saddle.

The importance of mobility in the early stages of childhood, as well as in adulthood, is very important. There are many options on the market, so you should seek advice from health professionals to choose the equipment that best suits your needs. If you have questions, you can contact us at info@lohmedical.com

Jorge Ramos, MD Sales Manager for the Caribbean

Health professional with marketing and sales skills, lover of technology, videojegos and sports. His weaknesses are coffee and his family.

Location: Santa Tecla, El Salvador Contact
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