September 13, 2021

Jose Gallo Cruz has been working as a physical therapist at San Antonio State Supported Living Center since 2014. Ensuring the highest level of care for the center’s residents led him to improve techniques to help his team better visualize spinal conditions to aid in designing custom wheelchair seats and improving treatment plans.

Pressure mapping is done while sitting in the wheelchair and has been used to determine the distribution of pressure that a person’s body has across the seat. This method minimizes the need for X-rays done solely for postural evaluation, which can be uncomfortable for people with structural conditions.

To fully visualize the shape of residents’ spines while they sit in a wheelchair, Cruz employs a non-invasive pressure-mapping method that involves applying a strip of soft sponge to their spine. He’s then able to slide the pressure-mapping device up against a resident’s spine and evaluate the curvature on a computer. By using this technique, Cruz’s team gains information they can use to efficiently produce custom-designed wheelchair seats that consider any spinal conditions, such as scoliosis.

“The residents who depend on wheelchairs for their mobility require in-depth structural evaluation of their posture due to long-term sitting,” Cruz said.

Taking his mission to help the residents even further, Cruz also employed a method of capturing the motion of people walking and assessing the body’s angles at any point, which allows a clinician to visualize gait abnormalities and plan for appropriate treatment.

“I thought to myself, ‘What a great tool to help in the assessment of gait,’” Cruz said. “Thanks to a few coding lessons I took online, asymmetries can be determined during the movement and help with assessing biomechanical outcomes of any subject.”

Cruz plans to present his methods and findings at future habilitation conferences in hopes of helping more facilities better serve their residents.