Training machine shows promise for relief of partial paralysis

- It doesn't look like much work, but the first time Douglas Burris took a ride in an All Core 360 Therapy and Training system he found out how difficult it was.

"I broke a sweat real quick, sure did," he laughs. "You find out exactly where you're weak and where you're strong."  

An ATV accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Now, as part of a program at the Shepherd Rehabilitation Center in Atlanta, the 56-year-old has been using the machine to build core strength.

The machine resembles a gyroscope. A chair, suspended in a computer-controlled frame, tilts and rotates slowly. 

The user must fight gravity to remain aligned with the chair. The more you tilt the chair, the harder it is to hold that posture. 

"It's 10 times tougher than doing a sit-up because you're constantly having to shift your muscle tightness around your core," Burris says.   

Exercise specialist Josh Zostnick says he first heard about the machine from a patient and decided to give it a spin.

"As soon as they tilted me back I could feel my muscles kick in and I was like, 'OK, this thing is legit,'" Zostnick recalls. 

Along with using it on patients, he's finding personal benefits as well.

"I feel myself that it's preventing injuries for me. I've been lifting patients for years," Zostnick says.

But others are using the chair to get ready for swimsuit season.

"We are driven by this abdominal need. Everyone wants a six-pack," says Chiropractor Scott Bertrand.

Bertrand developed the first prototype in the 1980s to rehabilitate his own neck and back injuries. 

He sustained his first injury in a skydiving accident while a member of the 101st Airborne Division. His second, a diving accident, drove him to develop the device.

Multiple iterations later, uses for newer models include back pain management and enhancement of performance for athletes. Still, others use the $55,000-plus machine to reduce the size of their waistline and build abdominal muscles.

Bertrand never imagined it would someday help people with paralysis. 

"The motivation of someone who sits in a wheel chair who has struggled for years and years and years for some form of progress made us look silly," Bertrand admits.

He was so moved he donated the machine to the Shepherd Center making it the first spinal cord and brain injury center to use the All Core 360.

Burris is using the machine a few times a week, and has had 4-5 spins on the device so far. He says his therapy is making a difference.

"I'm getting stronger week-by-week I wouldn't say day-by-day, but week-by-week I'm seeing progress," Burris says.

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