Spinal cord injuries can have a devastating impact on both the victim and his or her entire family. Ranging from a loss in sensation in various body parts to the loss of control in the arms, legs or internal organs, those suffering from spinal cord damage could find their entire lives changed. Through a new stimulation therapy, however, researchers strive to give hope to those who have lost the ability to walk.
Scientists at Neuroscience Research Australia are leading an international trial for eWALK, a stimulation therapy designed to improve limb function through directed electrical impulses. The study will include 50 trial participants with chronic paraplegia. All 50 trial participants will receive intense walk and step training while some will also receive stimulation therapy to measure any improvement across groups.
What is stimulation therapy?
The stimulation therapy involves two electrodes that are placed on the surface of the skin below the injury site. These electrodes send electrical impulses that not only activate the remaining functional nerves in the spinal cord but also amplify the signal communication between the brain, the spinal cord and the legs.
According to the researchers, neurostimulation is the one research therapy that has shown significant results. This therapy could potentially restore movement and function to people in clinical experiments. Based on the eWALK international trial, the researchers ultimately hope to expand the study’s scope to address a wider range of spinal injuries including those resulting in ongoing pain, digestive health problems, and the loss of bladder and bowel control.
Even though it is protected by the bones in the spinal column, the spinal cord is a delicate part of the body. This crucial bundle of nerves allows communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Damage to the spinal cord can result in life-changing conditions including hemiplegia, paraplegia and quadriplegia.