Ability to perform simple tasks returns years after spinal cord injury.
Completing simple tasks, like turning a doorknob or opening a water bottle, can make a significant difference in the daily lives of individuals with spinal cord injuries. An exploratory study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma reports a nonsurgical treatment procedure that restored at least partial function to people whose hands were paralyzed as a result of a spinal cord injury. Six people who had been paralyzed for at least one year participated in the study and all regained partial use in their hands.
The Treatment Procedure
A research team from the University of California Los Angeles developed a procedure based on the idea that a voluntary nerve signal generated when a person tries to use their hands can be combined with external stimulation of the nerves in the spinal cord that play a role in hand movement to partially overcome paralysis caused by a spinal cord injury. The external stimulation was provided by electrodes placed on the skin. The voluntary nerve signal was generated when the participants attempted to grasp a device that measures grip strength.
The participants went through a series of training sessions. During each session they tried to squeeze a device that measures grip strength for three seconds. The sessions lasted roughly 90 minutes and involved 18 attempts to squeeze the device with each hand. Eight training sessions were administered on a schedule of two per week for four weeks.
At the beginning of the study, three of the participants were unable to move their fingers at all, and none could turn a doorknob or twist the cap off a plastic water bottle. The participants had chronic and severe paralysis ranging from one year to over 10 years.
Every participant experienced at least some level of improved hand function after one training session and significant improvements after two or three sessions. When training was complete, maximum grip strength increased approximately 325% while transcutaneous electrical stimulation was occurring. More importantly, grip strength improved approximately 225% when external stimulation was absent.
“About midway through the sessions, I could open my bedroom door with my left hand for the first time since my injury and could open new water bottles, when previously someone else had to open them for me,” said Cecelia Villarruell, a participant whose injury happened 13 years earlier as the result of a car accident.
“Most people with a spinal cord injury say they just want to go to the bathroom like a normal person,” she said. “Small accomplishments like opening jars, bottles and doors enable a level of independence and self-reliance that is quite satisfying, and have a profound effect on peoples’ lives.”
Over 1.2 million Americans are living with paralysis resulting from spinal cord injuries according to the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
“Improved hand function can mean the difference between needing around-the-clock care and living more independently,” said Peter Wilderotter, president and CEO of the Reeve Foundation. “These findings bring great hope to those who were told recovery following paralysis would be impossible. As new discoveries and breakthroughs are uncovered, it is clear the word ‘impossible’ no longer applies to spinal injury.
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The Lifetime Cost of a Spinal Cord Injury
The financial hardship that results from a severe spinal cord injury is enormous. The cost over a lifetime can easily exceed $1 million in medical expenses, lost income, rehabilitation, special needs and more. Very often a spinal cord injury is caused by the negligence or malice of another. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. If you or someone you love has suffered a spinal cord injury, you need a qualified spinal cord injury lawyer to help you recover the damages to which you are entitled, to provide a life free from financial hardship. The physical hardship is already more than anyone should bear.
If you or a loved one were injured, call Attorney Steve Hoskins today for a free consultation. We have a complete auto accident and personal injury team of lawyers, investigators, specialists and paralegals ready to defend your rights and obtain the care and financial security you deserve. There are no fees or costs unless we win a settlement for you.
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