Title:
MODIFIABLE WALKING-ASSISTANCE APPARATUS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus for facilitating walking and a method of using the apparatus. The apparatus includes a pole member, at least a first grip member and a second grip member, the first grip member is arranged to allow a user of the apparatus to move stably and the second grip member is arranged to allow a user of the apparatus to participate in a rigorous activity, and one or more ground contact members. The grip members are removably connectable to the pole member at a first end of the pole member, and the one or more ground contact members are removably connectable to the pole member at a second end of the pole member. The method includes the steps of participating in one or more diagnostic activities by an individual to generate data and selecting one or more walking-improvement activities that involve use of the apparatus based on the data obtained.



Inventors:
Mcgann, Brian (York Harbor, ME, US)
Foweraker, Gregory (Vancouver, CA)
Mcgann, Shaye (York Harbor, ME, US)
Dulac, Kate (Manchester, NH, US)
Application Number:
12/198223
Publication Date:
03/04/2010
Filing Date:
08/26/2008
Assignee:
INTERCHANGEABLE MEDICAL WALKING STICKS LLC (York Harbor, ME, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45B9/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HAWK, NOAH CHANDLER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CHRIS A. CASEIRO (PORTLAND, ME, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for walking assistance, the apparatus comprising: a. a pole member having a first end and second end; b. a first grip member and a second grip member, wherein the first grip member is arranged to provide stability and the second grip member is arranged to enable rigorous physical activity; and wherein the first and second grip members are removably connectable to the first end of the pole member.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising one or more ground contact members, wherein the one or more ground contact members have at least one ground contact region, and wherein the one or more ground contact members are removably connectable to the second end of the pole member.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the length of the pole member is adjustable.

4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the pole member is formed by two or more shafts, and at least one of the two or more shafts is removably connectable to at least one other of the two or more shafts.

5. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the first grip member has a first grip region and the second grip member has a second grip region, wherein the first grip region is substantially axial to the pole member whenever the first grip member is connected to the pole member and the second grip region is at a substantially right angle with respect to the pole member whenever the second grip member is connected to the pole member.

6. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein ground contact region of the one or more ground contact members is substantially blunt.

7. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the ground contact region of the one or more ground contact members is substantially pointed.

8. A method involving the use of an apparatus to facilitate walking by an individual, the method comprising the steps of: a. engaging the individual in one or more diagnostic activities; b. obtaining data associated with the one or more diagnostic activities to obtain data; c. using the data to select one or more walking-improvement activities; and d. participating in the selected one or more walking-improvement activities by the individual, wherein the one or more walking-improvement activities are selected based on the data, and wherein the participation in the selected one or more walking-improvement activities includes the use of the apparatus, wherein the apparatus includes a pole member having a first end and a second end, a first grip member and a second grip member, wherein the first grip member is arranged to provide stability and the second grip member is arranged to enable rigorous physical activity, and wherein the one or more grip members are removably connectable to the first end of the pole member.

9. The method of claim 8 wherein the apparatus further includes one or more ground contact members, wherein the one or more ground contact members have at least one ground contact region, and wherein the one or more ground contact members are removably connectable to the second end of the pole member.

10. The method of claim 8 further comprising the step of determining one or more traits of the individual.

11. The method of claim 10 wherein one or more of the step (b), the step (c), and the step of determining one or more traits of the individual is carried out by a health care professional.

12. The method of claim 10 wherein one or more of the step (b), the step (c), and the step of determining one or more traits of the individual is carried out by using a computer.

13. The method of claim 8 wherein the one or more diagnostic activities are performed while using the apparatus.

14. The method of claim 8 wherein the data is further used to select one or more activities that are not walking-improvement activities.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an apparatus to facilitate walking. More particularly, the present invention relates to an apparatus including a plurality of removably connectable parts, and a method of using the apparatus to facilitate walking, such as for the purpose of improving the rehabilitation of an individual having a walking disorder or merely enhancing the physical ability of an individual.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Walking disorders are common. They are attributable to accidents, such as falls and collisions, for example, to maladies, such as vertigo, strokes and muscular degeneration, for example, and to surgery. Most walking disorders can be treated and, in many cases, complete recovery is possible. However, the rehabilitation process often is fraught with problems that must be overcome before such recovery can be made. For example, during the earliest stage of rehabilitation, the rehabilitating individual typically faces mental challenges that impede his/her ability to enjoy optimal progress. At this time, the individual may have little or no confidence that rehabilitation will be successful, and therefore, be worth enduring. When this is true, the individual may put forth little or no effort toward rehabilitation. As another example, the level of physical impairment of the individual can vary greatly throughout the rehabilitation process, which means that the rehabilitation process must be routinely monitored and adapted to best meet the rehabilitative needs of the individual. Some rehabilitating individuals, such as some stroke and motor vehicle crash victims, for example, suffer greatest impairment at the beginning of the rehabilitation process and then progressively improve until the rehabilitation process is completed. Walking impairment in other individuals, such as those inflicted with a muscular degenerative condition or who have naturally and progressively degenerated due to advanced age, for example, may be greatest at some time that is well after the impairment is first experienced. Further, some rehabilitating individuals may “have their good times and their bad times.” That is, their level of impairment may fluctuate widely in short swings throughout the rehabilitation process. For example, a rehabilitating individual may be able to walk without much assistance shortly before enduring a long bus trip, for example, and then need substantially more assistance just after the bus trip in order to walk.

The cane is a well known tool used by individuals to assist them while walking. Canes provide stability for the individual beginning rehabilitation, the individual initiating an exercise regimen or the individual simply needing some form of support. For the rehabilitating individual, once that stability has been achieved, the support cane design is unsuitable for the move from rehabilitation to a more rigorous exercise regimen. On the other hand, a device such as a trekking stick is useful to the individual at the rigorous exercise stage of rehabilitation, but it offers little in the way of stability for the individual at the start of rehabilitation. That is, the trekking stick is less suitable as a stability device. Existing tools focus on one or the other of stability and exercise assistance, but these tools individually fail to be adjustable for the transition from initial rehabilitation to exercise.

What is needed therefore is an improved apparatus for facilitating walking, such as for the purpose of improving the rehabilitation of an individual having a walking disorder by providing balance to the individual, or merely enhancing the physical ability of an individual. The needed apparatus should be easily configurable into a variety of different arrangements by the individual as needed to meet any changes to the physical conditions of the individual over the course of increased physical ability and to allow the individual to avoid having to purchase and carry multiple walking-assistive devices. What is also needed is a method of using such an apparatus as part of a broader rehabilitation and/or wellness program.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide a modifiable walking-assistance apparatus, and therefore may be used, for example, by an individual undergoing rehabilitation, an individual whose walking ability is in decline due to advanced age, and an individual who needs stability while walking. The apparatus includes a pole member which may be of adjustable length and may be formed by a plurality of removably connectable shafts. The apparatus further includes at least a first grip member and a second grip member, the first grip member is arranged for stability and the second grip member is arranged for more rigorous activity or to assist a user of the apparatus who wishes to increase his/her activity beyond normal walking, and one or more ground contact members. The grip member is removably connectable to a first end of the pole member, and the ground contact member is removably connectable to a second end of the pole member. Further, each one of the grip member and the ground contact member is of selectable form. The apparatus may be arranged in a variety of ways, and specifically may be arranged to best facilitate the needs of any individual who is to use the apparatus. For example, the apparatus may be arranged to facilitate walking, at various levels of rigorousness.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a method for using the present apparatus as part of a rehabilitation or wellness program. The method generally includes the steps of: (a) participating in one or more diagnostic activities by a health care professional of the individual; (b) monitoring the one or more diagnostic activities to obtain data; (c) using the data to select one or more walking-assistive activities; and participating in the selected one or more walking-assistive activities by the individual, wherein the one or more locomotion-assistive activities are selected based on the data, and wherein the participation in the selected one or more walking-assistive activities includes the use of the apparatus. The method may be carried out for a variety of purposes. For example, the method may be carried out for the purpose of facilitating the rehabilitation process of an individual who is inflicted with a walking disorder, which may occur, for example, as a result of surgery. As another example, the method may be carried out for the purpose of improving the overall wellness of an individual who is free of any walking disorder but may benefit by using the apparatus, such as for the purpose of gaining stability, for example. As yet another example, the method may be carried out for the purpose of facilitating the rehabilitation process and improving the overall fitness of an individual who is inflicted with a walking disorder.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an exploded side view of an embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is an unexploded side view of the apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a close-up cross-sectional view of the interface between a grip member and a pole member of the apparatus.

FIG. 4 is an exploded side view of the pole member of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is an unexploded side view of the pole member of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a side view of a first embodiment of the grip member of the present apparatus.

FIG. 7 is a side view of a the first embodiment of the grip member of the present apparatus removably connected to the pole member.

FIG. 8 is a side view of a second embodiment of the grip member of the present apparatus.

FIG. 9 is a side view of a first embodiment of the ground contact member of the present apparatus.

FIG. 10 is a side view of a second embodiment of the ground contact member of the present apparatus.

FIG. 11 is a side view of a third embodiment of the ground contact member of the present apparatus.

FIG. 12 is a flow diagram showing the steps of a method of using the apparatus of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention is a modifiable apparatus and a method for facilitating walking. As shown in FIG. 1, an apparatus 10 of the present invention includes a pole member 100, a grip member 200 having grip region 208, and a ground contact member 300 having one or more ground contact regions 310. The pole member 100 has a first end 103 and a second end 107.

As shown in FIG. 2, the grip member 200 is removably connectable to the first end 103 of the pole member 100, and the ground contact member 300 is removably connectable to the second end 107 of the pole member 100. The skilled artisan will recognize that there are a large variety of options for connecting the grip member 200 and the ground contact member 300 to the pole member 100 in a removable or detachable way. For example, the member 200/300 may include a depressible pin and the end 103/107 may include one or more selectable openings for retaining the depressible pin, or the end 103/107 may include a depressible pin and the member 200/300 may include one or more selectable openings for retaining the depressible pin. As an example of one arrangement of the depressible pin and the opening, FIG. 3 shows the grip member 200 as having a depressible spring pin 205 that may be removably retained within an opening 105 that is near end 103 of the pole member 100. In this specific arrangement, the pole member 100 may be secured within the grip member 200 by depressing the depressible spring pin 205, inserting end 103 of the pole member 100 into the grip member 200, and releasing the depressible spring pin 205 when the depressible spring pin 205 is adjacent to the opening 105. It is to be understood, however, that in some embodiments of the invention, the pole member 100 includes the pin 205 and the grip member 200 includes the opening 105 for removable connection of the pin 205. It is also to be understood that, in some embodiments of the invention, the ground contact member 300 is removably connectable to end 107 of the pole member 100 by including either one of these two arrangements of the depressible spring pin 205 and opening 105 as part of the ground contact member 300 and end 107 of the pole member 100.

As another example of the invention in which the primary components of the apparatus 10 may be removably connected together, the member 200/300 may be removably connected to the pole member 100 by friction fit. That is, the member 200/300 may include an opening into which the end 103/107 of the pole member 100 may slidably fit and snuggly held, or the end 103/107 of the pole member 100 may include an opening into which the member 200/300 may slidably fit and snuggly held. As yet another example, the member 2001300 may include a male or female threaded opening and the end 103/107 may include a female/male threaded pin for rotatable insertion and removable connection of the primary components. It is to be understood, however, that the invention is not limited only to these examples of the removable connectablity of the member 200/300 to the pole member 100.

The length of the pole member 100 may be fixed, such as would be the case when the pole member 100 is a single component, or the length of the pole member 100 may be adjustable. When the length of the pole member 100 is to be adjustable, this may be achieved by adjusting the connection point between the pole member 100 and the grip member 200, and/or between the pole member 100 and the ground contact member 300. Alternatively, the length adjustment may be achieved by configuring the pole member 100 as a plurality of shafts that facilitate such adjustability. In one example, shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the pole member 100 is formed by an upper shaft 110 and a lower shaft 120. The lower shaft 120 may be adjustably, securably and removably retained within a portion of the upper shaft 110, such as is shown in FIG. 5, or the upper shaft 110 may be adjustably, securably and removably retained within a portion of the lower shaft 120 (this latter arrangement of the upper shaft 110 within the lower shaft 120 is not shown). The ability to adjust the upper shaft 110 with respect to the lower shaft 120, secure the upper shaft 110 to the lower shaft 120 and allow for the complete removal of the upper shaft 110 from the lower shaft 120 may be made achieved, for example, by including a depressible pin, such as the depressible spring pin 205′ of FIGS. 4 and 5, for example, at or near end 104/108 of one of the shafts 110/120, and a plurality of openings, such as a plurality of the openings 105′ of FIGS. 4 and 5, at or near end 104/108 of the other shaft 110/120. When the pin 205′ and the openings 105′ are included as parts of the shafts 110/120, one shaft 110/120 may be slidably, removably and securably connected to a portion of the other shaft 110/120 by inserting the pin 205′ into any one of the openings 105′ as described above with regard to the connection of the member 200/300 to the pole member 100 by the pin 205 and opening 105. It is to be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to having this pin 205′ and plurality of openings 105′ arrangement to achieve the modifiable connectablity of the shafts 110/120 for the purpose of pole member 100 length adjustability. The skilled artisan will recognize that there are a variety of ways this connection may be achieved.

The pole member 100 preferably is sturdy and lightweight and may be formed from any one or more of a variety of materials. Materials from which the pole member 100 may be formed therefore include, but are not limited to, for example, aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, carbon fiber, graphite, fiberglass, other nonmetallic materials and any combination thereof.

The grip member 200 may be in any one of a plurality of forms and it may be in any one of a plurality of connection arrangements with respect to the pole member 100 when the grip member 200 is removably connected to the pole member 100. In one embodiment, the grip member 200 is substantially in the form of grip member 211 shown in FIG. 6 or an equivalent design. When the grip member 211 is removably connected to the apparatus 10, grip region 208′ may be substantially axial with respect to the pole member 100, such as shown in FIG. 7, for example. However, it is to be understood that when the grip member 211 is removably connected to the apparatus 10, the grip region 208′ may be less than substantially axial with respect to the pole member 100. For example, the grip region 208′ may be angled by as much as about 45° or as little as about 10° less than axial with respect to the pole member 100. The skilled artisan will recognize that any relatively upright arrangement of the grip region 208′ with respect to the pole member 100 will allow a user of the apparatus 10 to participate in a rigorous activity, such as fast-paced walking, for example, while gripping the pole member 100 of the apparatus 10.

In another embodiment, the grip member 200 is substantially in the form of grip member 221 shown in FIG. 8 or an equivalent design. When the grip member 221 is removably connected to the apparatus 10, the grip region 208″ may be at a substantially right angle with respect to the pole member 100, such as shown in FIG. 2, for example. However, it is to be understood that when the grip member 221 is removably connected to the apparatus 10, grip region 208″ may be at an angle with respect to the pole member 100 that is somewhat different than a right angle, but at least sufficiently angled to permit the user to use the apparatus 10 as a stabilizing structure rather than as a rigorous exercise apparatus. That is, the skilled artisan will recognize that any relatively right-angled arrangement of the grip region 208′ with respect to the pole member 100 will allow a user of the apparatus 10 to participate in a moderate activity, such as slow, steady and stable walking on a flat indoor surface, for example, while gripping the pole member 100 of the apparatus 10.

The grip member 200 may be designed for easy and comfortable gripping by a human hand. Therefore, the grip region 208 may include or may be formed as a soft covering, and/or is textured or otherwise formed, for improved gripping. Suitable soft materials include, but are not limited to, rubber, foam, and plastic, for example. As will be recognized by the skilled artisan, the grip member 200 also may be in any one of a variety of shapes and be in any one of a variety sizes. The grip member 200, for example, may be shaped and/or sized to accommodate a variety of hand sizes, such as the small hands of a child or the large hands of an adult, for example. The grip member 200 also may be shaped and/or sized to meet the needs of an individual having a particular hand disability, such as arthritis, for example, that prevents the individual from gripping the grip member 200 completely or otherwise normally.

Further, because it is recognized that an individual who is missing one or both hands would benefit from the present invention, the grip member 200 may be formed such as to allow secure gripping by a prosthetic device that does not include a human hand-like clasping member, such as a prosthetic device that includes a clip-like or tripod-like clasping member, for example. Therefore, the grip region 208 of the grip member 200 may be formed from a rigid material, such as stainless steel, for example, to allow it to withstand being gripped by a durable clasping member, such as one that is also formed from stainless steel, for example.

The ground contact member 300 may have any one of a plurality of forms. In one example, the ground contact member 300 has a single, blunt ground contact region 310, such as the ground contact member 301 having blunted ground contact region 312 shown in FIG. 9, for example. In another example, the ground contact member 300 has a single, pointed ground contact region 310, such as the ground contact member 302 having ground contact region 314 shown in FIG. 10, for example.

Further, while each one of the ground contact members 301/302 has only a single ground contact region 310, it is to be understood that the ground contact member 300 may include two or more contact regions 310. For example, the ground contact member 300 may be in the form of the ground contact member 303 of FIG. 11, which includes four contact regions 310.

The ground contact member 300 is not limited to the forms of the ground contact members 301/302/303. The skilled artisan will recognize that the ground contact member 300 may have any one of a variety of forms.

When the apparatus 10 is being used, the ground contact member 300 is able to contact any underlying surface on which the user of the apparatus 10 may be present, including, but not limited to, interior flooring of all varieties, asphalt, concrete, dirt, sand, ice, snow, and the surface of an exercise device, such as the moving platform of a treadmill device, for example. The ground contact member 300 may be selected to reduce the possibility that an individual will fall, slip or stumble while using the apparatus 10 of the present invention on a particular underlying surface. For example, the pointed ground contact member 302 may be selected when the user of the apparatus 10 is to walk on an icy surface. The ground contact member 300 also may include other features that have not already been shown or described with respect to the ground contact member 300 to facilitate ground contact. For example, the ground contact member may include a high frictional surface at contact region 310 for improved contact between the apparatus 10 and the underlying surface.

Further, the ground contact member 300 and/or the grip member 200 may be selected based on the rehabilitative needs and/or physical ability of the user of the apparatus 10. For example, the ground contact member 301 may be selected to be used in conjunction with the grip member 221 when the user of the apparatus 10 has reduced walking ability, and therefore needs to use the apparatus to walk on flat surfaces. As another example, the ground contact member 302 may be selected to be used in conjunction with the grip member 211 where the user is to partake in a more strenuous activity than walking on a flat surface, such as hiking an inclined rocky terrain, for example.

Because the apparatus 10 of the present invention includes a plurality of removably connectable parts, whenever a part, such as the ground contact member 300, for example, becomes worn or otherwise defective, the user of the apparatus 10 may replace only that defective part without having to replace the entire apparatus 10. Therefore, the apparatus 10 is cost-effective. The ability to remove parts also is convenient to the user because this capability allows the user the option of carrying around certain spare parts, and therefore not an entire spare apparatus, for when these parts become defective.

Further, the apparatus 10 of the present invention is easy to transport. Because the apparatus 10 includes a plurality of removably connectable parts and the length of the pole member 100 optionally may be slidably adjustable, the apparatus 10 may be easily and quickly disassembled and/or the length of the pole member 100 may be slidably reduced, such as when the apparatus 10 is to be stored in the overhead compartment of a commercial airplane, for example, for later reassembly and use. To further enhance the transportability of the apparatus 10, the apparatus 10 may include an optional storage container, such as a rigid plastic case or a soft canvas bag, for example, for carrying all or some of the parts of the apparatus 10.

The method of the present invention includes one or more steps for using the apparatus 10 for the purpose of facilitating walking. In one example, shown in FIG. 12, the method 400 includes the optional step of determining one or more traits of the individual, step 410. These traits may be, but are not limited to being, for example, those regarding baseline exercise limitations of the individual, physical limitations of the individual and/or nutritional intake by the individual.

In a second step of the method 400, step 420, the individual participates in one or more diagnostic activities that may or may not involve use of the apparatus of the present invention. Exemplary diagnostic activities include, but are not limited to being, for example, walking without using the apparatus 10 and running while using the apparatus 10 on a treadmill while the apparatus 10 is connected to, or is in no way connected to, the treadmill,

In a third step of the method 400, step 430, the one or more diagnostic activities are monitored for the purpose of obtaining data regarding the individual's performance in the one or more diagnostic activities of step 420. This monitoring may be carried out in whole or in part by a person, such as by the individual who is the subject of the method or by a health care professional, for example. This monitoring also may be carried out in whole or in part by a machine, such as a computing device, an electrocardiograph machine or other types of tools, for example. “Data” includes both objective and subjective data. Therefore, “data” includes numerical values, such as numerical values that indicate heart rate, the individual's walking speed, or any other data of interest, and also includes less quantifiable, or unquantifiable, observations, such as “the individual began sweating profusely after several seconds” and “the individual walked normally for about five paces and then stumbled”, for example. Further, the data may be, but need not be, storable and/or analyzable by computer.

In a fourth step of the method 400, step 440, one or more walking-assistive activities are selected based on the data of step 43 0, and in a fifth step of the method 400, step 450, the individual participates in the selected one or more walking-assistive activities of step 440. This participation in the walking-assistive activities of step 440 includes the use of the apparatus 10. The selection of the one or more walking-assistive activities may be made by the individual who is the subject of the method, a health care professional, a machine, or by any combination thereof. The walking may occur on a variety of surfaces, including those previously described herein. Therefore, the walking may occur on an exercise device, such as a powered treadmill, for example. Regardless of the exact nature of the walking-assistive activity selected, the apparatus 10 can be arranged to optimally allow the individual to carry out that activity. For example, if the walking-assistive activity that is selected is trekking up an inclined terrain, a health care professional may elect to instruct the individual who is subject to the method to arrange the apparatus 10 to include the grip member 221 of FIG. 6 and the pointed ground contact member 302 of FIG. 10 to carry out that activity.

It is to be understood that the data of step 430 may be used as the basis of selecting one or more ancillary activities for participation by the individual who is subject to the method that are meant to improve the overall wellness, and therefore not just the walking-ability, of the individual. For example, a health care professional, such as a nutritionist, may direct the individual to perform the ancillary activity of changing his/her diet based on the data. As another example, a health care professional may direct the individual to perform a particular upper body strengthening program.

The apparatus and method of the present invention are more specifically described with reference to a specific Example; however, they are not to be construed as being limited thereto.

EXAMPLE

A female individual of decreased physical conditioning undergoes knee replacement surgery on a knee that had been degenerating for three years. As a result, the individual is unable to walk without assistance, and therefore she has a “severe” walking disorder. The individual then becomes a rehabilitation patient (hereinafter, “Patient”) of a health care professional (hereinafter, “Physical Therapist”). Patient then partakes in a walking rehabilitation program, as directed by Physical Therapist according to the method of the present invention, as follows.

Physical Therapist directs Patient to use the apparatus 10 of the present invention having the grip member 221 of FIG. 8 and the ground contact member 301 of FIG. 9 whenever Patient walks for four months, which specifically are the first four months (or “0-4 months”) of Patient's rehabilitation period. Physical Therapist further indicates that Patient is to only walk, and therefore is to not move by foot in any other manner, during this four-month period. It is the primary goal of Physical Therapist during this initial four-month period to have Patient regain her sense of balance. It is a secondary goal of Physical Therapist to have Patient gradually improve her ability to walk.

After abiding by Physical Therapist's instructions for these four months, Patient has a “somewhat less severe” walking disorder and has largely regained her sense of balance and, although she is still walking with difficulty, she is walking more normally than she was shortly after undergoing surgery. At this time, Physical Therapist instructs Patient to only walk for the next four months (i.e., months 4-8 of Patient's rehabilitation period), and to primarily use the apparatus 10 of the present invention having the grip member 221 of FIG. 8 and the ground contact member 301 of FIG. 9 during this four month period. Physical Therapist further instructs Patient that she may use the apparatus 10 having the grip member 221 of FIG. 8 and the ground contact member 303 of FIG. 11 whenever she feels too weak to walk with the apparatus 10 having the grip member 221 of FIG. 8 and the ground contact member 301 of FIG. 9. It is the primary goal of Physical Therapist during this second four-month period to have Patient improve her ability to walk while becoming less dependent on the apparatus 10.

On one day during this second four-month period, while aboard a train, Patient disassembles the apparatus 10 and places all of its parts into a canvas carrying bag for easy storage in anticipation of a long ride on the train that will take her far away from her home. At the end of the train ride, Patient begins to reassemble the apparatus 10 and, in doing so, she notices that the ground contact member 303 is severely worn and is in fact too worn to safely use. Patient then reaches into the canvas carrying bag and retrieves from it a second, new ground contact member 303, and includes this second, new ground contact member 303 in the reassembly of the apparatus 10. (Because the ground contact member 303 is interchangeable, and therefore replaceable, Patient has avoided being stranded on the train without an operable apparatus 10.)

After abiding by Physical Therapist's instructions throughout second four-month period, Patient has a “moderate” walking disorder, which is less severe than was the somewhat less severe walking disorder experienced at the end of the first fourth months of rehabilitation. At this time, Physical Therapist has Patient use the apparatus 10 having the grip member 221 of FIG. 8 and the ground contact member 301 of FIG. 9 to “walk about 50 feet and then turn around and walk back.” Physical Therapist then concludes that Patient has a “slight” walking disorder, which is less severe than the walking disorder experienced at the end of the second four-month period of rehabilitation. Physical Therapist then provides Patient with two of the apparatuses 10 of the present invention having the grip member 211 of FIG. 6 and the ground contact member 301 of FIG. 9 (i.e., one apparatus 10 for each of her hands) and asks her to extend her stride and walk more vigorously.

Physical Therapist directs Patient to use two of the apparatuses 10 of the present invention having the grip member the grip member 211 of FIG. 6 and the ground contact member 301 of FIG. 9 to walk vigorously at least 15 minutes per day over the course of the next four months, to use the apparatus 10 having the grip member 221 of FIG. 8 and the ground contact member 301 of FIG. 9 “whenever she feels she needs to use it”, and to not use the apparatus 10 at all “whenever possible”.

After monitoring Patient weekly throughout the four-month period, Physical Therapist determines that Patient no longer has a walking disorder, and therefore declares that Patient has met the rehabilitative goals set for her regarding the walking disorder that manifested due to the surgery that Patient had undergone about 12 months prior. Thereafter, Patient and Physical Therapist may continue to engage in a wellness program, including the use of the apparatus 10 with grip member 211 of FIG. 6 in addition to other exercise activities, dietary choices, or other ancillary activities to improve and maintain optimal health.

While the present invention has been described with particular reference to certain embodiments of the apparatus and method, it is to be understood that it includes all reasonable equivalents thereof as defined by the following appended claims.