Wondering how to walk again after spinal cord injury? Is it even possible?
Recovering from spinal cord injury is unique because the spinal cord doesn’t heal as easily as the rest of the body.
However, most patients recover some levels of motor and sensory control, so the potential for walking after spinal cord injury is definitely there.
What Are the Chances of Walking After Spinal Cord Injury?
Many spinal cord injury patients can learn to walk again through physical therapy. The more aggressively you pursue physical therapy, the greater your chances of recovery.
Your chances of walking after spinal cord injury depend mainly on what type of spinal cord injury you have and the severity of it.
The lower down the spine your injury site is, the more likely you are to recover movement. This is because if your site of injury is higher, it affects more parts of your body.
You need to tackle the healing process from top to bottom.
If you injure the part of your spine that affects your arms, everything from your arms down becomes impaired. Your focus is to recover arm movement before leg movement.
However, complete spinal cord injury CAN transition to incomplete, so there’s hope for almost everyone!
Treatments to Walk Again After a Spinal Cord Injury
Let’s take a look at some promising treatments to walk again after a spinal cord injury.
Keep in mind that every spinal cord injury and recovery is different. What works for one person may not work for another.
1. Physical Therapy & Exercise
Spinal cord injury disrupts your brain-body connection, so you need to teach your body how to move again.
Your body can’t recognize movements unless you consistently repeat them.
Spinal cord injury exercises are essential for keeping your body in the best condition to recover.
It keeps your blood flow regular, helps get more oxygen to the brain, boosts your mood, and keeps muscles toned.
Physical therapy and exercise are necessary because they will get you familiar with walking motions, which will teach you how to walk again after spinal cord injury.
They also help develop essential muscles which will help support your weight and keep you balanced.
Gait training is a type of physical therapy focused specifically on standing and walking recovery.
It teaches you how to balance, builds strength, and develops muscle memory.
You can expect to use a lot of different equipment for support such as parallel bars, braces, walkers, and crutches to make the transition easier.
Gait training is effective because it’s specific and emphasizes repetition.
2. Electrical Stimulation
The exciting thing about electrical stimulation is that it’s proven to get patients walking again.
Lots of patients and researchers are hopeful that electrical stimulation for spinal cord injury will be one of the best treatments to walk again after a spinal cord injury.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process, it’s basically when an implant sends electrical currents below your injury to stimulate muscle movement.
Even patients with complete spinal cord injury have been able to move again with the help of electrical stimulation.
It’s important to note that although electrical stimulation is promoting the movements, intensive physical therapy is necessary for walking to occur.
It’s the combination of electrical stimulation plus physical training that has allowed for recovery.
Watch the video below to see 3 patients who’ve taught themselves how to walk again after spinal cord injury with the help of electrical stimulation.
3. Stem Cell Treatment
Another very promising treatment for walking recovery after spinal cord injury is stem cell treatments.
Stem cells are exciting because of their ability to divide infinitely and become various types of cells.
These stem cell injections in spinal cord injury patients have shown improvements in locomotor and sensory functions.
Because of their regenerative ability, stem cells have allowed lots of spinal cord injury patients to move again.
However, just like electrical stimulation, the treatment is still being researched and needs further development.
Can Someone with Spinal Cord Injury Walk Again?
See for yourself! Below are some videos of spinal cord injury patients who’ve recovered walking ability.
Meet Daquan Minor, a teenager who got T6 incomplete spinal cord injury after being in a car accident.
With lots of hope and determination, Daquan put his all into intensive physical therapy and was able to walk again.
“Nobody was telling me I was going to walk again but nobody was telling me I wouldn’t, and that’s what kept me going.”
Even when chances of walking after spinal cord injury were slim, Daquan stayed hopeful and was able to pull through.
This is Kedar Nath Senapati.
He suffered a cervical spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from his chest down.
This video documents his 3 years of recovery.
You can witness various stages of his journey like his first stand or his transition to crutches.
Kedar teaches himself how to walk again after spinal cord injury and it’s truly inspirational.
Final Thoughts About Walking After Spinal Cord Injury
Hopefully, this article inspires you to stay positive and work hard towards your recovery.
It won’t come quick or easy, but it will be worth it.
We highly encourage you to document your recovery process with pictures and videos.
They help remind you of how far you’ve come and keep you motivated.