Andrew Sutton has written a rather critical posting in "Conductive World” about the Giger MD therapy machine that he has seen advertised on the Internet. I would like to say something about this based on my own practical experience.
We have been using Giger for years in Boxdorf. One of the physiotherapists was trained on a short course in Switzerland in its use. This training really is necessary to ensure that the position of the client is optimal.
Representatives from the company selling it came to demonstrate Giger to us many years ago at our summer Fest and open day. I have a huge catalogue in English about it somewhere but the best way to find out about it is to use it and ask others who use it what they think.
I believe that the machine was originally created by the engineer husband of a lady with multiple sclerosis.
One of our very early “Petö” families discovered Giger and bought two, one for the adults in their family and one for the children, more especially for their child with cerebral palsy. They were so excited by its effectiveness that they organised the demonstration for us.
The charity that I work for here in Nürnberg consequently bought one for the physiotherapy department and it was such a hit that the parents of one of my Tuesday evening group donated a second. This was done with the understanding that their daughter would get to use it at least once a week in her physio-sessions.
Giger and me
I have dug out a photograph of me on a Giger out of my boxes of photos. It was taken when the demonstration was on at the Sommerfest. I kept going back for more throughout the day, as I felt so good having used it.
This was a long time ago now, too long to remember exactly, but I had probably cycled the fifteen kilometres to work on that day. I discovered that being on the Giger gave me the same invigorating feeling but after a much shorter time.
The people demonstrating the machines altered the position of my hands and feet and raised and lowered my upper and lower body. It was possible to feel the difference in the movement and which parts of the body were putting in most effort.
I found the experience very good, as did the physiotherapists and occupational therapists who were also queuing up to try it out. You can use it for many movements and I think that it is especially good in the lying position, using both arms and legs.
Interestingly, I was the only conductor there who had a go. And at that time there were eight of us! More than there were physios at that time.
The Giger Games
Many of the inhabitants of the residential home and the people who work in the workshop really enjoy to use the Giger in their twice-weekly physio-sessions. When I work in that department, and the clients are given the choice between rowing, CE, massage, magnetic-therapy bed or Giger, many, especially the younger ones, choose Giger. They seem to be almost addicted to it, really looking forward to a fix. For some it is the only time in their week that they move enough to work up a sweat! Perhaps the only time in their lives till now.
They are really highly motivated to "ride" and they concentrate intensely on their movements and speed. There is a screen that tells them how many rotations they have made, how many kilo-joules they have used and how much energy they have needed to do all of this. It is possible to change the gearing.
All of this is recorded each session in a huge ledger, which they can refer to on the following visit.
When the last Olympics games where taking place the physiotherapy department had their own Olympics. For the complete duration of the games for the disabled they had a “Giger Olympics”. Anyone could take part, including in their spare time, to try and break and set new personal records.
I would like to have a Giger for members of my MS and my stroke groups to jump on when they arrive a bit too early or when they have fifteen minutes to wait before they are picked up.
I have looked again at all the sites that Andrew has linked to. Yes, the advertising really is bad. The men who demonstrated to us were slightly better. As most of the people trying it out were therapists or pedagogues of some kind they didn’t really need to tell us much. We were finding out for ourselves.
In my opinion parents would have discovered more by having a go themselves.
Both in my opinion and that of my Tuesday group (after-work group for adults with cerebral palsy) who use it often, the Giger does not improve movement directly. It does invigorate and, through the movement of both arms and legs, it makes you very much aware of every muscle in your body, especially when the hips are positioned slightly raised from the bench.
It is because of the precision needed in setting up the machine that training is necessary to use the machine with clients. It is important that they should use the machine regularly and learn which positions are the best for their particular needs.
Perhaps this invigoration brings with it renewed or indeed new body awareness and allows clients to be more active in their daily lives, in other situations.
I consider it to be the one machine (and there are several such machines in all physiotherapy practices) actually worth getting on for thirty minutes, three times a day, seven days a week. That is what I was recommended. Obviously, Giger's manufacturers want to sell these machines to physiotherapy practices, so they don’t advertise this point in the website. Physiotherapists in Germany usually only see their clients for twenty or thirty minutes, once a week.
Even so, the machine is worth using. If after using Giger clients can be more active and move more freely, walk or sit tall, then something has been achieved that could be cumulative with regular use.
Giger is not as bad as it first looks
As I was going back and forth looking at all the advertising links on Andrews’s posting I began to come up with more thoughts about it.
Because I know the Giger machine and I know of its uses, I did not at first see what had appeared so awful about the website. I am also sure from my own experience that it does do something positive but not necessarily what the website is claiming it to do!
It surely lets you know that you have got muscles. It even lets you know that there are unused muscles that you could perhaps start to use for something. It can show you how long your arms are and bring you to realise that you can stretch them to reach for something almost out of reach.
Maybe that is what horse-riding (another 'therapy') does too. It lets you know that your body is there and reminds you how you could perhaps use it in other situations.
A bit like cycling
For me it was like cycling. Only partly, because on Giger one uses the hands and the arms, but the feeling when you get down from it is like having cycled a very long way relatively fast.
People with disabilities who ride bikes seldom get that invigorated feeling. Their bikes are not usually set up in this way. Most bikes (or more often than not trikes) owned by adults and children with disabilities are set up for comfort and safety, not for dynamic cycling. Many adopt a strange body position on a bike that often encourages the use of spastic movements or already forming contractures and asymmetric postures. Giger can be set up to avoid all of this and get the client using the whole body symmetrically.
My bike frame was bought roughly to measure, the saddle is set to measure both in regards my leg length and arm length. This ensures that elbows, shoulders and knees are not over-stretched while pedalling, but stretched enough to give maximum power. I sit on my bike dynamically. This is how you are positioned on Giger too. It is quite easy once you have worked out what each client needs.
I do not know whether all physiotherapist do this.
From movement to activity
It really is a shame that the website is so slick.
It has been interesting to read, as I do not see the glossy advertising any more because I know the machine. I see what I know as a very good machine, much better than others that I have seen and used in physiotherapy departments. It is a machine that the clients love and are highly motivated to use. I often wonder why that is, because when set up correctly it is extremely hard work. This is probably the answer, they feel they are achieving something, especially afterwards.
On Giger, just as it is when swimming, I do not have to concentrate so much on making the movements but it is good to do so. When I get off the Giger I am very aware of my whole body, because I had been using my whole body. I feet inches taller and have a lively feeling, raring to go. This vitality lasts a relatively long time. It is this vitality that I believe to improve movement. It motivates activity, which of course will indirectly improve mobility.
Giger does not improve movement but its effects could motivate activity. This is what I see happening with our clients in Nürnberg.
On this video promotional video from the GIGER MD, I noticed that there was a lot of “Petö furniture” in the picture, and parents with children sitting on their knees. I wonder whether this video had been shot at a conductive centre. I also therefore wondered why these children where not actually sitting independently on the Petö furniture in the picture.