It is exciting times in the spinal cord injury world with increased developments and reports of successful neural tissue transplants including stem cells and peripheral nerve grafts resulting in people with spinal cord injuries being able to walk again. Consequently there has been an increase in the amount to research that has been performed and published on the ability of the injured spinal cord to regenerate. Regeneration of the spinal cord can also be referred to as neuroplasticity. It is well recognised how neuroplasticity plays a significant role in the rehabilitation of the brain, but often it is not realised that the spinal cord is also part of the nervous system and also has the ability to remodel.
The neuroplastic changes in the spinal cord can cause both a positive and negative outcomes. As soon as someone has injuried their spinal cord, negative adaptations can result in spasticity. For this reason it is essential that someone with a spinal cord injury has therapy and exercise input almost immediately to ensure these negative changes are attempted to be managed. The positive changes in the spinal cord can occur from an increase in the flow of axonal fluid within the cord, increased neurotrophic factors, nerve stimulation, and sensory and motor input both from the body to the brain and from the brain down to the body. All of these can be achieved by exercise, whether voluntary or assisted with functional electrical stimulation or body weight support treadmill training.
Regular consistent exercise has been shown to be neuroprotective, neurorehabilitative, and cause neuroplasticity within the spinal cord. Researchers are confirming that a combination of therapeutic approaches to spinal cord injury (including stem cell therapy) needs to be combined with regular challenging exercise as a fundamental key to help achieve more consistent results.
The possibility of someone with an incomplete and severe spinal cord injury being able to walk again is becoming more of a reality than not now with these developments in medicine and exercise based therapy. If you have a spinal cord injury and are unsure if you are achieving the best results from your exercise program please enquire at Advance Rehab Centre for more information.
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