By: Chonte’ Garcia
Being paralyzed is no longer hindering the lives of those who are suffering! As of September, at least five people whose legs were completely paralyzed are now walking without help thanks to a pain stimulator implanted in their spines.
Researchers have found that when the spine is electrically stimulated, along with very intense and specialized training, this can re-train the body to move the legs even though brain signals are not communicating with the spine. The spine learns to work independently.
The comparison has been made to a chicken continuing to run around with its head cut off. The spine is still sending signals to the legs to move, independent of the brain.
The specialized training happened in steps, where the patients were first trained to move their legs in a walking motion, then moving to the treadmill, and eventually being able to walk on their own! Can you say, AMAZING?! Physical therapists have played a major role in this training process. Patients are exercising the muscles that would normally disintegrate over time due to paralysis.
Patients who have been a part of this experience have reported also accomplishing “emotional milestones” in recovery, from thinking that they will never walk again to being able to walk independently. They started doing things that brought joy to their lives before their injury!
Research began in 2011 where patients were only able to stand using the implant, and now have advanced to be able to walk. The researchers conducting the study hope to one day accomplish this without the spinal implant, and treat individuals with older spinal cord injuries. Currently, there has been more success with patients who have had recent injuries.