Title:
Physical therapy apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A physical therapy apparatus comprising an at least partially flexible vessel and a pressure gauge. The pressure gauge is associated with the at least partially flexible vessel. The pressure gauge is configured to monitor the change in pressure of the at least partially flexible vessel. The at least partially flexible vessel is inflated to a pressure which permits a patient to compress the flexible vessel between two limbs or other parts of the body of a patient, to selectively increase the pressure therewithin.



Inventors:
March, Phillip (Holland, MI, US)
Karafa, Sandi (Grand Haven, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/838166
Publication Date:
03/10/2005
Filing Date:
05/03/2004
Assignee:
MARCH PHILLIP
KARAFA SANDI
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/121
International Classes:
A63B21/008; A63B71/00; A63B71/06; A63B24/00; (IPC1-7): A63B71/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070021270Athletic velocity training deviceJanuary, 2007Nugent
20090105052STRENGTH TRAINING SYSTEM WITH FOLDING FRAMEApril, 2009Dalebout et al.
20060189463Exercise towelAugust, 2006Boice et al.
20030100409Folding device of a running exercise machineMay, 2003Huang Tung
20100048360REAR DRIVE TYPE ELECTRIC TREADMILLFebruary, 2010Wang
20050107221ErgometerMay, 2005Vohryzka
20070149366Weight training machine having a selector device that is operated easily and convenientlyJune, 2007Kuo
20060046915Powered body inversion exerciserMarch, 2006Huang
20050043144Auxiliary equipment for exercise treadmillFebruary, 2005Nakamoto
20070021273Sports and exercise wheelJanuary, 2007Howson
20090023554Exercise systems in virtual environmentJanuary, 2009Shim



Primary Examiner:
RICHMAN, GLENN E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KING & PARTNERS, PLC (170 COLLEGE AVENUE SUITE 230, HOLLAND, MI, 49423, US)
Claims:
1. A physical therapy apparatus comprising: an at least partially flexible vessel; a pressure gauge associated with the at least partially flexible vessel, the pressure gauge configured to monitor the change in pressure of the at least partially flexible vessel, wherein the at least partially flexible vessel is inflated to a pressure which permits a patient to compress the flexible vessel between two limbs or other parts of the body of a patient, to selectively increase the pressure therein.

2. The physical therapy apparatus of claim 1 wherein the at least partially flexible vessel comprises a substantially spherical configuration.

3. The physical therapy apparatus of claim 1 wherein the pressure gauge includes means for signaling to a user that a desired pressure has been reached.

4. The physical therapy apparatus of claim 3 wherein the signaling means comprises at least one of a visual indication and a audible indication.

5. The physical therapy apparatus of claim 4 wherein the visual indication comprises one of an analog gauge or a digital gauge.

6. The physical therapy apparatus of claim 4 wherein the audible indication comprises one of the group consisting of: audible tones and synthesized speech.

7. The physical therapy apparatus of claim 1 wherein the pressure gauge further includes means for storing data pertaining to pressure readings.

8. The physical therapy apparatus of claim 7 wherein the data storing means includes means for linking with a computer, to transfer the data from the data storing means to a computer for processing thereof.

9. The physical therapy apparatus of claim 3 wherein the signaling means is positionable remote of the at least partially flexible vessel, while maintaining electronic communication therewith.

10. A method for determining the relative strength of a portion of a patient's body comprising the steps of: positioning a physical therapy apparatus between two limbs of a patient, the physical therapy apparatus comprising an at least partially flexible vessel and a pressure gauge associated with the at least partially flexible vessel; allowing the patient to move the two limbs to, in turn, increase the pressure within the at least partially flexible vessel; providing an indication corresponding the increase in pressure of the at least partially flexible vessel; and allowing the patient to move the two limbs, to, in turn, reduce the pressure within the at least partially flexible vessel.

11. The method of claim 10 further comprising the step of: storing data pertaining to the increase in pressure.

12. The method of claim 11 further comprising the step of: analyzing the stored data.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/467,758 filed May 2, 2003, the entire specification of which his incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates in general to a physical therapy apparatus and more particularly, to a flexible vessel which can be compressed by a user between limbs or other parts of the body, which provides feedback relative to performance.

2. Background Art

The use of physical therapy devices is well known in the art. For example, one common physical therapy device is a ball which can be repeatedly compressed by a user between his or her limbs or other parts of the body. Often, such balls are positioned between the knees of a patient and repeatedly compressed to gauge the recovery of the patient that is, for example, recuperating from a leg injury.

While such devices are generally helpful, it is difficult to gauge improvement over time, or the relative condition at any given moment in therapy. For example, while a therapist may instruct the patient to increase the force at which the ball is compressed relative to a previous treatment, it is difficult for the patient to judge and to determine if the patient has increased the force with which he or she is compressing the ball. Moreover, it is difficult to execute multiple repetitions during a session which are in the same general force and compression range.

Thus, it is an object of the present invention to provide a physical therapy device which provides feedback and increases the utility thereof.

It is an additional object of the present invention to provide a physical therapy device which can maximize the effectiveness of the patient's physical therapy.

These an other objects will become apparent in light of the specification and claims appended hereto.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention comprises a physical therapy apparatus. The apparatus comprises an at least partially flexible vessel and a pressure gauge. The pressure gauge is associated with the at least partially flexible vessel. The pressure gauge is configured to monitor the change in pressure of the at least partially flexible vessel. The at least partially flexible vessel is inflated to a pressure which permits a patient to compress the flexible vessel between two limbs or other parts of the body of a patient, to selectively increase the pressure therein.

In one embodiment, the at least partially flexible vessel comprises a substantially spherical configuration.

In another preferred embodiment, the pressure gauge includes means for signaling to a user that a desired pressure has been reached.

In one such embodiment, the signaling means comprises at least one of a visual indication and a audible indication. Preferably, the visual indication comprises one of an analog gauge or a digital gauge. In one such embodiment, the audible indication comprises one of the group consisting of: audible tones and synthesized speech.

In another embodiment of the invention the pressure gauge further includes means for storing data pertaining to pressure readings. In one such embodiment, the data storing means includes means for linking with a computer, to transfer the data from the data storing means to a computer for processing thereof.

In one embodiment, the signaling means is positionable remote of the at least partially flexible vessel, while maintaining electronic communication therewith.

In another aspect of the invention, the invention comprises a method for determining the relative strength of a portion of a patient's body comprising the steps of: (a) positioning a physical therapy apparatus between two limbs of a patient, the physical therapy apparatus comprising an at least partially flexible vessel and a pressure gauge associated with the at least partially flexible vessel; (b) allowing the patient to move the two limbs to, in turn, increase the pressure within the at least partially flexible vessel; (c) providing an indication corresponding the increase in pressure of the at least partially flexible vessel; and (d) allowing the patient to move the two limbs, to, in turn, reduce the pressure within the at least partially flexible vessel.

In one embodiment of the method, the method further includes the step of storing data pertaining to the increase in pressure.

In one such embodiment, the method further includes the step of analyzing the stored data.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will now be described with reference to the drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 of the drawings is a perspective view of a first embodiment of the physical therapy apparatus of the present invention, showing, in particular, an analog gauge positioned in a first orientation;

FIG. 2 of the drawings is a perspective view of a second embodiment of the physical therapy apparatus of the present invention, showing, in particular, an analog gauge positioned in a second orientation;

FIG. 3 of the drawings is a perspective view of a third embodiment of the physical therapy apparatus of the present invention, showing, in particular, a remotely positioned analog gauge;

FIG. 4 of the drawings is a perspective view of a fourth embodiment of the physical therapy apparatus of the present invention, showing, in particular, a wireless remotely positioned analog gauge;

FIG. 5 of the drawings is a perspective view of a fifth embodiment of the physical therapy apparatus of the present invention, showing, in particular, a digital gauge positioned in a first orientation;

FIG. 6 of the drawings is a perspective view of a sixth embodiment of the physical therapy apparatus of the present invention, showing, in particular, a digital gauge positioned in a first orientation;

FIG. 7 of the drawings is a perspective view of a seventh embodiment of the physical therapy apparatus of the present invention, showing, in particular, a remotely positioned digital gauge; and

FIG. 8 of the drawings is a perspective view of the eighth embodiment of the physical therapy apparatus of the present invention, showing, in particular, a wireless remotely positioned digital gauge.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings several specific embodiments with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the invention to the embodiments illustrated.

It will be understood that like or analogous elements and/or components, referred to herein, are identified throughout the drawings by like reference characters. In addition, it will be understood that the drawings are merely representations of the present invention, and some of the components may have been distorted from actual scale for purposes of pictorial clarity.

Referring now to the Figures, and in particular to FIG. 1, physical therapy apparatus 10 includes an at least partially flexible vessel 12 and pressure gauge 14. Flexible vessel 12 may comprise a ball, such as a basketball, a beach ball, a kickball, a soccer ball, among a multitude of others. Of course it is contemplated that the ball may comprise a specially configured shape (i.e., other than spherical) which may be able to conform to particular regions of the body (i.e., legs, arms and the like). It is further contemplated that the ball may include certain regions which may be more rigid, or inflexible as compared to other regions.

With respect to inflation of such vessels, it is contemplated that the vessels may be inflated to any number of different pressures relative to ambient. For example, it has been found, surprisingly, that an under-inflated (0.75 psi), highly flexible (kickball type) ball has certain advantages to a user from the standpoint that it is capable of providing a wide operating range, while conforming well to the patient's body. Moreover, it has been found that an under pressurized flexible vessel tends to be more comfortable to a user, and more generally results in a stronger response from the user.

Pressure gauge 14 is shown in the figures as comprising any number of different devices, including, but not limited to analog gauges, digital gauges, remote gauges and wireless gauges. Indeed, the types of gauges that are contemplated extend well beyond those specifically identified herein. For example, the gauge may comprise an analog gauge which contains a dial having various readings which the user desires to achieve. The gauge may be mounted such that it extends outwardly from the vessel. In other embodiments, the gauge may be substantially completely positioned within the vessel. The pressure gauge includes a signaling means which provides the user with feedback as to the changes in pressure and the relative differences in exertion between repetitions.

It is contemplated that the gauges may be include a signaling means\ so as to provide an audible signal (such as a tone, a synthesized speech component, etc.) when a desired pressure or desired force or exertion is reached. On certain gauges, the signaling means may comprise an indicator may be positioned which corresponds to the desired exertion level, and the user can see when the needle of the gauge reaches the desired exertion level. Furthermore, the device can be coupled with a data storage component which can retain data pertaining to a session. The data storage component can be accessed by a technician wherein the data can be downloaded to a computing device for analysis and for permanent storage. In this manner, the progress of the patient can be studied and charted without requiring full time observation by a therapist.

As is shown in the figures, it is important to position the gauge in such an orientation that it will be visible to a patient. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1, 2, 5 and 6, the user can see the large gauge while operating the device, as long as the device is properly positioned in the field of view. Advantageously, the gauge is of such size and shape that even a user with marginal eyesight can track progress. Further, the gauge may be padded to preclude damage to the gauge and to preclude inadvertent shock to the gauge (or the gauge can be configured so as to be substantially positioned within the vessel itself). In the particular embodiment of FIG. 1, the gauge face can be utilized as a stand for the apparatus when it is not in use. The remote gauges and the wireless gauges shown in FIGS. 3, 4 7 and 8 can be manipulated so as to be positioned in a desired and highly visible location for both the patient and the therapist.

In operation, the user can grasp one of the physical therapy apparatuses, such as the apparatus shown in FIG. 1. Once grasped, the user can position the device as necessary. For example, the user can position flexible vessel 12 between the knees. Once positioned, the therapist can set a predetermined pressure (or compression of the vessel) which the patient is to attempt to obtain through compression of the flexible vessel between the knees. The patient begins treatment and can adjust the force applied to the apparatus based upon the reading of the gauge. Thus, the maximum effectiveness can be realized for the treatment period, and the patient is not left to guess if the proper amount of force has been exerted, or if too much or too little force has been exerted.

Wherein the gauge is equipped with a data storage element, the therapist can download the stored data to a computing device for analysis and for historical tracking. Future treatment can be prescribed based upon the results of prior treatment and the desired final goals. As such, the treatment regimen can be fine tuned for each particular patient and for the progress of individual patients.

The foregoing description merely explains and illustrates the invention and the invention is not limited thereto except insofar as the appended claims are so limited, as those skilled in the art who have the disclosure before them will be able to make modifications without departing the scope of the invention.