On June 25, 2012, WebPT copywriters Charlotte Bohnett and Erica Cohen sat down for a phone interview with Cindy Gibson-Horn regarding her patented Balance-Based Torso-Weighting® technique and equipment. Thank you, Cindy, for providing such valuable information on this PT innovation.

CindyEleven years ago, California-based practicing therapist and San Francisco Business Times Health Care Heroes Award Finalist Cindy Gibson-Horn had the biggest “wow” moment of her career. When she strategically attached weights to the torso of a 40-year-old multiple sclerosis rehabilitation patient named Mary to counterbalance directional loss, Cindy found better-than-expected improvements in balance and stability. The additional weight dramatically corrected Mary’s upright sensory input allowing her to walk, turn, and look at things without becoming unsteady. But it didn’t stop with Mary—or MS—the same technique helped patients with Parkinson’s disease, stroke, head trauma, ataxia, cerebral palsy, osteoporosis, brain surgery, and dizziness.

Out of this discovery, Motion Therapeutics and Balance-Based Torso-Weighting® was born. Cindy now devotes her 30-year therapy career to this innovative technique and supporting equipment. Check out the video below to watch Cindy and Mary’s story:

According to MotionTherapeutics.com, “Balance-Based Torso-Weighting (BBTW) is an evaluation and treatment system consisting of an assessment procedure that in turn results in a custom weighted patient garment. A therapist assesses an individual’s balance to find problem areas in accordance with the BBTW™ Assessment Manual.”

Once the therapist identifies the balance dysfunction, he or she strategically places small unobtrusive weights (Velcro-secured into a vest) on the patient’s torso to improve balance control. Patients frequently report improvement during their first visit.

Currently, over 100 patients use the rigid and non-rigid vests, not including the patients involved in the BBTW research studies. Cindy developed BBTW for outpatient treatment; however, she’s now working on an inpatient hospital version, which will be available next month. “The earlier you can reach a patient, the better their improvements.”

Dr. Gail Widener PT, PhD, (Samuel Merritt University, Oakland, California) and Dr. Diane Allen PT, PhD (San Francisco State University) recently received a NIH Grant to study the immediate effects of BBTW. Within her own practice, Cindy has noted that over 80% of her BBTW patients have shown improvement with about 20% showing the dramatic improvement demonstrated here. She hopes the current research as well as research on long-term effects solidifies BBTW’s place among PT and OT treatment plans.

One example of upcoming research is BBTW’s effects on children. Cindy is currently working with California Children Services to help therapists and schools provide non-rigid vests to children. Already they’ve noted improvements in walking, handwriting, and reading, particularly in children with hypotonia, cerebral palsy, and Down's syndrome.

Another exciting clinical application example: Cindy and Dr. Laurie Chaikin, an optometrist and OT, have noted visual improvement within their clinics for patients using the BalanceWear vest, especially those suffering from stroke and other brain traumas. “It’s very exciting to think you apply weight to the torso and you experience improvement in vision,” Cindy says.

Interested in incorporating BBTW in your practice? Cindy offers 10-hour certification courses for physical therapists to become BBTW Certified. While some therapists have mistaken BBTW or strategic weighting for the traditional weighted vest, there is actually a specific science to this patented technique, and Cindy wants all therapists to provide the same level of treatment quality not only to ensure effective results, but also to further evidence-based practice. In addition to the course, which includes an assessment/case study segment, Cindy also offers Skype sessions to assist certified therapists as they incorporate the technique into their treatment plans.

Speaking of treatment plans, Cindy is a big believer in trial usage. Her father recently came home from a doctor’s appointment with a $700 ankle brace, which he hated, used twice, and then stored in a closet to collect dust. This is why Cindy created the BalanceWear assessment kit, which allows patients to try the product out before making the investment. This also allows therapists the opportunity to appropriately calibrate the vest within their clinic before sending their patients home.

Beyond providing your patients with another form of results-driven care, BBTW is an experience. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle—placing the weights. Once you place the final piece, then everything comes together. Everything is stable, Cindy says. “It’s a very rewarding treatment method. And it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.”

To learn more about certification, read about the technique, or discover BBTW success stories, visit motiontherapeutics.com or the BalanceWear blog. And stay tuned to the WebPT blog; we’ll share new published research and company updates as Motion Therapeutics evolves.

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