While a spinal cord injury treatment has yet to be developed, there are treatments for many of its side effects, which can help minimize complications and improve mobility.
This article will discuss the various interventions implemented to improve sensorimotor functions after spinal cord injury.
Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Options
Glial scarring and cystic cavitation are major barriers to developing an effective spinal cord injury treatment. They block neural pathways and prevent axon regrowth.
Although spinal cord injury treatment may not currently exist, researchers are working hard to develop one.
Below we’ll discuss 5 different interventions that can help minimize treatment and promote functional improvement after a spinal cord injury.
Before SCI patients can try any of these potential treatments, stabilization of the spinal cord is crucial.
Stabilization techniques may involve:
- Surgery: Performing surgery might be necessary to help realign the spine and prevent further compression of the spinal cord.
- Braces: You might have to wear a brace or halo traction due to misalignment of your spine. It will help ensure that you don’t worsen your condition and keep your posture straight.
- Medication: Steroids like Methylprednisolone can help reduce swelling in the spinal cord. Too much swelling can block blood flow, which causes spinal shock.
Following an SCI, your spinal cord is extremely vulnerable. The idea behind these stabilization techniques is to prevent your injury from worsening.
2. Electrical Stimulation
The most promising form of electrical stimulation for spinal cord injury treatment is epidural stimulation.
A surgeon must implant an electrical stimulator into the lumbar region of the spine that sends electric currents down the spinal cord, below the site of injury.
The theory behind this spinal cord injury treatment is that the electrical currents mimic brain signals and will excite the neurons below the injury to create a new connection to the brain.
Although the mechanisms have yet to be understood, spinal cord injury patients have been able to move paralyzed limbs as a result of epidural stimulation.
Additionally, the enforcement of an intensive physical training regimen is necessary to successfully regain motor function. Without massed repetition, neurological adaptations in the spinal cord cannot be stimulated.
3. Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is another extremely promising spinal cord injury treatment in the works.
Stem cells are useful because they can:
- Divide infinitely
- Become various cell types depending on their environment
This makes them ideal for regenerating spinal cord tissues. However, the formation of cystic cavitation and glial scarring at the injury site form a barrier that limits stem cell regeneration.
Research suggests that acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on neural restoration following spinal cord injury.
Acupuncture is one of those things that people either swear by or think is a complete gimmick. It’s a traditional Chinese practice that involves placing hair-like needles into specific acupoints for therapeutic relief.
In Western countries, acupuncture has been adopted as a technique for pain relief, but in the East, it has been used for all sorts of neurological problems.
Ideally, acupuncture should result in:
- oxidative stress reduction
- inflammation inhibition
- an increase in regenerative stem cell production
Moreover, electroacupuncture isn’t that much different from epidural stimulation. They both involve stimulating the body with electricity.
However, it’s important to note that clinical research on acupuncture has some weaknesses in terms of methodology, such as a lack of standardization and the use of small subject groups.
5. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Oxygen plays a huge role in cell survival as it fuels cellular activity.
Following a spinal cord injury, the amount of oxygen-rich blood in the spinal cord decreases. Oxygen is what converts nutrients into energy and without, the spinal cord cannot function properly.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is when pressurized oxygen is administered into your system. The ideology behind this is that it will prevent cell deaths caused by lack of oxygen.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy should help:
- recovery of motor function
- improve spinal cord histology
- lessen the effects of secondary injury such as cell deaths, inflammation, and oxidative stress
Oxygen therapy has proved to provide neuroprotective outcomes for those with and without spinal cord injury.
Although promising as a spinal cord injury treatment, only a few clinical trials have been performed on the efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen treatment and outcomes must be researched on a larger scale.
Spinal Cord Injury Treatments: Key Points
While a spinal cord injury treatment is still in the works, it is possible to improve mobility and promote neuroadaptive changes through massed practice.
All five of these interventions have yielded positive results and are still being fine-tuned and tested on a larger scale to maximize benefits after spinal cord injury.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand the barriers to developing a spinal cord injury treatment and what current management interventions are being utilized.