Research is increasingly showing the benefits of locomotor training.
Recovery in spinal cord injury can be helped by certain therapies and requires a huge commitment on the part of the people with SCI and their families to do the locomotor exercise, which is the most intensive exercise they’ll ever have. To take somebody who’s 20 years after spinal cord injury and expect them to walk without intensive training, that’s expecting a miracle to happen.
Researchers are collaborating with clinicians and patients to translate research into effective therapeutic interventions. Spinal cord injury applicable trials include everything from neuromodulation — using transcranial magnetic stimulation combined with electrical muscular stimulation and physical therapy to improve voluntary muscular function — to intermittent hypoxia research — a novel approach where brief periods of low oxygen have been found to increase the connection strength between brain and spinal cord for a few hours, giving a window to make therapy sessions more effective.
Umbilical cord blood mononuclear cells are the be all and end all of spinal cord injury transplant therapies. A lot of different therapies are showing some beneficial effects. There have been more than a hundred studies published across the world in the last four years using transplants of a variety of cells into the spinal cord, and in every study, you notice that maybe two or three or four people are actually recovering well, and these are the ones who are highly motivated through locomotor training.
There’s a lot of exciting new research showing that recovery of function is possible, given the right interventions. Whether it’s electrical stimulation or some of the more ambitious regeneration strategies, activity-based or locomotor training seems to be key to helping the spinal cord rewire itself after injury. Some of these recovery technologies are expected to move from research trials to clinical applications soon.
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