Over one million people in the United States live with spinal cord injuries, according to the Journal of Neurotrauma.
Traditionally, individuals with these injuries have had limited treatment options.
However, new technologies and medical techniques could lead to new treatments for spinal cord injuries.
Here are a few currently being developed:
Neurological Spinal Stimulation
A research team from UCLA has developed a spinal stimulation procedure with promising results.
Their method uses electrodes placed on the skin to stimulate the spinal cord. Electrical currents of different frequencies and intensities are applied to the spine.
The team tested the technique on six volunteers. These volunteers were unable to turn a doorknob or open a bottle of water at the start of the study.
All six could do both after eight training sessions.
Other benefits of the procedure include healthier blood pressure and the ability to sit upright without assistance for some volunteers.
While they need to test this procedure further, researchers claim this method is a cheap alternative to surgery.
Possibly available within the next 10 years, neuroprosthetics connect brain signals to muscles. Spinal cord injuries often block neural pathways to muscle groups. The two-part neuroprosthetics technique reconnects these pathways.
A volunteer is implanted with a device that records brain signals. Then scientists place electrodes on the muscles of a paralyzed limb. The electrodes interpret signals sent by the brain and gently shock the muscles, causing them to contract.
Through this method, volunteers have been able to drink coffee and eat meals without assistance.
Exoskeletons are early in development but offer exciting potential.
Exoskeletons replace muscle movement with machinery. They surround a person’s limbs with a metal frame that can bend and move. The user controls the frame via remote inputs.
Prototypes have helped paralyzed individuals walk and factory workers lift hundreds of pounds.
The cost of these types of systems has slowed their development. An exoskeleton can cost thousands of dollars.
Spinal cord injuries are difficult, with many obstacles. However, there may come a day they aren’t as severe as they are now.
If you have been in an accident and suffered a spinal cord injury, you have questions. An attorney who has experience with these injuries and knows your legal options can be a great resource.