A new device created at the University of Toronto stimulates the muscles of patients with spinal cord injuries and helps enable walking function in those whose condition is not expected to improve.
Researchers found that functional electrical stimulation (FES), a process that sends controlled bursts of electricity through the skin and into muscles, will aid in patients recovery and improve their step frequency, stride length and overall walking speed.
Professor Milos Popovic, says, "This is a group of patients in which recovery is not expected, we got them on a treadmill and worked with them and 18 weeks later we saw quite a considerable improvement."
After completing two to five sessions per week of FES therapy and practicing with physiotherapists, the patients learned how to trigger their leg muscles as they walked.
Over 12 to 18 weeks, the patients’ gradually improved, with one patient even able to stop using her full-length leg brace while walking.
However, results did not last long; after 10 weeks of non- treatment, patient's walking skills decreased, but were still better than before therapy, AHN reports.