A spinal cord injury is a damage to any part of the spinal cord including the nerves at the end of the spinal canal (cauda equina). According to Mayo Clinic, spinal cord injury could cause permanent damage to the person on their strength, sensation, and other body functions below the injury's site.
There are ongoing studies around the world that could someday make repairing spinal cord injury possible. Until then, treatments and rehabilitation are available that will help people with spinal cord injury lead a productive and independent life.
One of these treatments is the new treatment developed by researchers from the University of Washington. Their new treatment allows people with spinal cord injury to regain hand and arm function.
The researchers said that around 18,000 Americans experience this injury every year, which leaves them unable to use both their hands and arms. The new treatment is a combination of physical therapy and non-invasive nerve stimulation in the spinal cord.
Regaining Hand and Arm Function
The researchers have successfully helped six patients in Seattle to regain hand and arm function that lasted for three to six months after the treatment ended.
Dr. Fatma Inanici, the lead author of the study, said that they did not expect that the first stimulation at the beginning of the study would have an immediate reaction. She added that there is no limit as to how much people could recover but seeing the results, that could perhaps change.
According to a report by Slashgear, the team coordinated with researchers from the Center for Neurotechnology and combined the non-invasive stimulation with physical therapy exercises. Unlike other nerve stimulation exercises, their technology does not involve implanting a nerve stimulator to deliver the current to the damaged spinal cord.
The new treatment uses a patch that the researchers developed themselves that sticks to the skin like Band-Aids. It is attached to the back of the neck and delivers electric pulses.
The participants were also put in a five-month training program of intensive physical therapy, scheduled three times a week for two hours every session. According to the researchers, some patients have regained their hand and arm function during the training alone. But they also observed some improvements when they combined both physical therapy and non-invasive nerve stimulation.
Spinal Cord Injuries
According to Mayo Clinic, the ability to control the limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on the place of the injury and its severity. Usually, the severity of the injury is referred to as completeness and is classified as either complete or incomplete.
A complete spinal cord injury happens when all sensory and all motor function ability are lost below the spinal cord injury. While an incomplete spinal cord injury happens when the patient still has some motor and sensory function below the affected area, but this could still vary from case to case.
Moreover, paralysis from spinal cord injury could also be classified between tetraplegia and paraplegia. The former is also known as quadriplegia, wherein the arms, hands, legs, trunk, and pelvic area affected by the injury. On the other hand, paraplegia paralysis affects all parts of the trunk, legs, and pelvic organs.
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