Spinal column injury may spell a lifelong sentence of paralysis for patients who have been afflicted with the disease. But with recent studies, surgeries and implanted devices may not be the only option for patients to regain movement of their legs. Researches have been made with more focus on non-surgical procedures.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, otherwise known as TENS, is the use of electric current produced by a device to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes. It is a non-invasive nerve stimulation intended to reduce both chronic and acute pain. This device is placed on the outside of the lower back so that it delivers an electrical current to the spine through electrodes.
Five paralyzed men manifested step-like movements when tested with the device recently. Although the men did not actually walk, the device elicited movements from the subjects, even when their legs were suspended in braces hung from the ceiling, enabling them to move their legs without resistance to gravity.
The study wants to focus on the potential to offer a life-changing therapy for patients without the need for surgery. Most individuals with a spinal column injury go through several surgeries and one more surgery may just be too much for them, not only physically but financially.
When the study began, the men’s legs moved only when stimulation was strong enough to trigger involuntary movements. However, the men who tried to move their legs even more during therapy developed a significantly wider range of movement. The treatment worked by reactivating dormant connections between the brain and the spine. With this, some networks are awakened and when patients learn how to use these networks and take advantage of the situation, he becomes less dependent and hopefully even independent of the stimulation itself.