Man patents physical therapy machine

Hannah Grover
Lawrence Guillen, who has invented a device to aid knee replacement patients, sits for a portrait on Thursday at Premier Fitness in Aztec.

AZTEC – While working as a physical therapist assistant, Lawrence Guillen noticed some patients were in so much pain after knee replacement surgery that they would refuse to continue the therapy.

He said the physical therapy often involved using a band wrapped around the foot and having the patient pull on it while lying down to force their leg to bend. This method presented a particular challenge for senior citizens with bad backs. He said he would watch these patients writhe as he pressed on their foot to help them bend their legs.

"They're struggling to get away from the pain," he said.

Watching his clients struggle through therapy inspired Guillen to create a machine that would help them while minimizing the pain.

"I was like, no, there has to be a better way," he said.

In 2005, he started working on building the machine now known as the Linear Motion Therapy Device. The key component, he discovered, was stabilizing the patient's hips so that they could achieve a true bend.

After several prototypes, he applied for a patent from the U.S.Patent and Trademark Office. Public notices were sent out in July 2012 to make sure he had not copied another person's device. In December, Guillen received the patent.

Guillen said there is one similar machine he knows about. It is called "Continuous Passive Motion." Unlike his LMTD, the CPM does not stabilize the hips. Guillen said because it does not stabilize the hips, the CPM cannot achieve a true bend because patients inevitably move their hips while using it. The LMTD is also much lighter and easier to transport than the CPM, it is adjustable based on the patient's size, and it can be used on either leg.

As Dale Anderson filmed a YouTube video of the machine in action for his friend, Anderson said he immediately noticed the difference. The pressure to lift the knee and bend the leg came from the foot rather than from pulling up on a band. Anderson, who has worked with several orthopedic and physical therapy clients as principal of Aztec Media Corporation, said this provided a more natural movement.

The LMTD machine is currently in Albuquerque undergoing some refinements. Guillen said the machine is constantly evolving.

"I don't know where it's going to go next," he said.

While no one is currently using the LMTD machine, it already has had success in the Aztec community.

Guillen recalled an 18-year-old athlete who had torn her ACL. She struggled through physical therapy until she used the LMTD machine.

Lawrence Guillen talks with his client Sharon Williams on Thursday after her workout at Premier Fitness in Aztec.

"She controlled her pain," Guillen said. "There was no pushing."

In his years of marketing, Anderson has seen a lot of proposals for inventions and many people have approached him with "silly ideas."

"This one seems reasonable," Anderson said.

Anderson said obtaining the patent is a huge step toward getting the machine into regular use for physical therapy.

"He got through the hard part," Anderson said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.