The last couple of weeks here at ARC have been pretty exciting with us having the opportunity to host and use REX with a number of patients. For those of you who aren’t sure what REX is, no it’s not a dog, it’s a Robotic Exoskeleton. The first of its kind, in the way that you do not need to use crutches or a walking aid to use it.
REX started out life in a garage in New Zealand. The inventor was diagnosed with MS, and he and his friend, (both engineers) decided they would try and invent something to try and help him with his mobility if he had any deterioration in the future.
10 Years later and REX has evolved into something very exciting which may give hope to many people who are affected by a variety of neurological conditions.
Although initially designed with MS in mind, REX seems to be finding a place within the field of rehabilitation post spinal cord injury. You don’t need any activity within your lower limbs to use it, so it lends itself to allowing people with complete spinal injuries to get up and move around. This is not to say that personally I do not see good future use for it throughout the field of neurological rehabilitation in a number of conditions. We had the opportunity to try REX with patients who had suffered CVA’s and also spinal cord injuries and saw potential benefits to using the equipment with both sets of patients.
Despite the fact that REX has evolved considerably since its conception, there is still always scope for further improvement and the engineers within the company are currently running extensive research into how REX can be used and what improvements or changes might be recommended. As therapists, we within ARC were tasked with looking at what we thought it would be useful for with different patient groups, and in Melbourne there is ongoing research into identifying how REX can be used effectively.
From having used it with two patients who had quite poor trunk control, it became apparent that using REX was an excellent way to challenge these patient’s trunk control, whilst encouraging upper limb function, whether it be through steering the REX or carrying out upper limb tasks. There is potential for REX to be used as an adjunct to a stretching program, and also the benefits of standing and weight bearing are well documented within the neurological population. It also has to be said that you cannot underestimate the psychological benefit for some patients to be up and “walking” in REX, bearing in mind that they may not have walked for some time, or may have been told they would never walk again.
There are technological developments within medicine every day, and REX could be one of the most exciting of its kind. It’s great to be involved at the cutting edge of new technology and hopefully have some input into developing it for its future and the future of our patients