The hippotherapy is a therapeutic technique used in the treatment of patients with neurodegenerative and traumatological diseases that takes advantage of the three-dimensional movement of the horse, its rhythmic impulses and the heat generated by the body of the animal to stimulate muscles.
Well, the Instituto de Neurorehabilitación InPaula, Technology Based Company (EBT) of the University of Almeria (UAL), is carrying out a pioneering research project in Spain that consists of extrapolating the benefits of hippotherapy to the rehabilitation room through of a equine simulator, with the heat effect of the animal included, integrated in the dynamics developed with children.
In this way, not being a real animal, but a kind of mechanical horse that mimics the animal's trot, it has the advantage that the movement adapts to the needs of each patient. The use of this novel system is indicated for children with cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, spina bifida, spinal deformities, scoliosis or scoliotic attitudes, torticollis, muscular dystrophies, autism or Down syndrome, among other pathologies.
Multiple benefits of hippotherapy
"Hippotherapy produces benefits in the physical, psychological and social, affecting the locomotor system, especially in the hip, pelvis, spine (spine), shoulder girdle (formed by the clavicle and scapula) and rib cage, activating kinetic chains and modifying respiratory dynamics ", explains one of the creators of this project. However, he adds that each pathology requires strict conditions that it is not always possible to develop with the animal. Hence, this entity has decided to use this simulator "that is personalized to each child," says the director of InPaula and a researcher at the Department of Neuroscience and Health Sciences of the University of Almeria, Pilar Flores Cubos.
"The simulator helps to recognize different parts of the body, correcting one's posture, developing laterality and helping to reconstruct a normal walking pattern. This improvement in physical posture and muscle tone influences the safety that the child has on himself, improving their self-esteem and, possibly, the affective tone with which they face the world, "clarifies Flores.
One of the greatest benefits of therapy with real horses is the direct heat it provides to the child and the benefits that this entails. For this advantage to be maintained in the simulator "an electric blanket has been used that reaches 38 degrees, the same as that generated by the body of the animal and that positively affects muscle relaxation," says Flores.
This simulator is being tested with children between three and twelve years old. According to the head of InPaula, the first data of the investigation corroborate the positive effect on postural control, although it will not be until six months when they can validate definitive results.