Healthcare Insider Blog

Increasing mobility in patients living with paralysis: Part 2

  • Healthcare Alvernia

In our last post we discussed one approach to helping those with spinal cord injuries (SCI) to regain mobility of the hand. In this post, we will discuss a less invasive approach that has been developed this year, and what it means for Alvernia students completing their Doctorate in Physical Therapy degree.

In June of this year, five men with complete motor paralysis were able to voluntarily generate step-like movements in a study using a noninvasive technique for sending electric stimulation to their spinal cord using electrodes strategically placed on the lower back. This strategy is called transcutaneous stimulation, and was developed by researchers at UCLA and the Pavlov Institute, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In a previous study, epidural stimulation, which involves surgical implantation of a stimulation device into the patient’s spinal cord, was used. Results revealed that four men with complete motor paralysis were able to generate voluntary movement. This suggests that electric stimulation of the spinal cord may have positive effects on facilitating active movement in individuals with SCI.

“All patients are going to need something slightly different, and maybe noninvasive stimulation is going to be best in some cases and epidural stimulation in others,” said V. Reggie Edgerton, PhD, Professor of Integrative Biology and Psychology at UCLA. “What we need to do is maximize the clinical tool box that we have so that the physician and the patient can select a therapy that is best for them.”

This technology could have a significant impact on the prognosis for individuals with SCI as well as for physical therapists who work with these populations. The option to treat full or partial motor paralysis patients using noninvasive stimulation means the potential to offer life-changing therapy without requiring surgery. These innovations could greatly influence the goals, strategies and outcomes for the rehabilitation of spinal cord injuries that lead to improved function and a better quality of life.

Effective November 12, 2014, Alvernia University has been granted Candidate for Accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314; phone: 703-706-3245; email: Candidacy is not an accreditation status nor does it assure eventual accreditation. Candidate for Accreditation is a pre-accreditation status of affiliation with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education that indicates the program is progressing toward accreditation.

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