A contralateral pelvic drop, a transverse rotation and a lateral translation of the pelvis are essential features of normal human gait. These motions are often restricted in robot-assisted gait devices. The optional FreeD module of the driven gait orthosis Lokomat (Hocoma AG, Switzerland) incorporates guided lateral translation and transverse rotation of the pelvis. It consequently should support weight shifting during walking. This study aimed to investigate the influence of the FreeD module on trunk kinematics and hip and trunk muscle activity.
Thirty- one healthy adults participated. A video analysis of their trunk movements was performed to investigate the lateral chest and pelvis displacement within the Lokomat (with and without FreeD), and this was compared to treadmill walking. Furthermore, surface electromyography (sEMG) signals from eight muscles were collected during walking in the Lokomat (with and without FreeD), on the treadmill, and overground. To compare the similarity of the sEMG patterns, Spearman's correlation analyses were applied.
Walking with FreeD elicited a significantly higher lateral pelvis displacement and a lower lateral chest displacement (relative to the pelvis) compared to walking with a fixated pelvis. No significant differences in the sEMG patterns were found for the Lokomat conditions (with and without FreeD) when comparing it to treadmill or overground walking.
The differences in pelvis displacement act as a proof of concept of the FreeD module. The reduction of relative lateral chest movement corresponds to a decrease in compensatory trunk movements and has its origin in allowing weight shifting through the FreeD module. Both Lokomat conditions showed very similar muscle activity patterns of the trunk and hip compared to overground and treadmill walking. This indicates that the Lokomat allows a physiological muscle activity of the trunk and hip during gait.