Exercise and Spinal Cord injury – Why is it important?

An injury to the spinal cord can result in life-changing damage. Depending on the location of the injury to the spinal cord and whether the injury is a complete or incomplete lesion, it results in differing abilities to someone who has spinal cord damage. Essentially, this can cause motor problems (walking, movement coordination and control of muscles), sensory (inability to feel sharp or dull touch and or temperature), and problems with autonomic function such as bladder, heart rate responses and thermoregulation. To add an extra complication, a person with the same spinal cord injury level may have different abilities to another.

There is an increased risk of obesity, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, depression, respiratory dysfunction, and muscular and neuropathic pain. It has been shown that individualised exercise rehabilitation can help people with spinal cord injuries. Increasing standing time (with clinician assistance), along with resistance training and increasing cardiovascular exercise participation can help to augment weight gain, attenuate degeneration in bone mineral density and can improve muscle mass in the active working muscles. Exercise rehabilitation that is targeted to help someone with daily tasks such as improving the ability to transfer from a wheelchair to a bed and increase strength and balance to pick items up from the floor help to improve independence. It is important that exercise is targeted to improve overall functioning and quality of life while addressing the weaknesses of the individual.

Specialist equipment such as body weight supported treadmill training has shown to improve walking speed, coordination and “normal” movement patterns in people with spinal cord injuries. It is possible for improvements in walking and other functions to continue even in people with chronic spinal cord injuries. It is imperative that rehabilitation is supervised by an exercise professional. If you want to learn more about exercising with neurological pathologies contact Absolute Balance today on 9244 5580 or email us at info@absolutebalance.com.au.

Taylor Downes

Exercise Consultant – B.Sc. Sport & Exercise, B.Ed. Human Movement (ESSAM)

 

 

References:

Tweedy, S. M., Beckman, E. M., Geraghty, T. J., Theisen, D., Perret, C., Harvey, L. A., & Vanlandewijck, Y. C. (2016;2017;). Exercise and sports science australia (ESSA) position statement on exercise and spinal cord injury. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 20(2), 108-115. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2016.02.001

Field-Fote, E. C. (2000). Spinal cord control of movement: Implications for locomotor rehabilitation following spinal cord injury. Physical Therapy, 80(5), 477. doi:10.1093/ptj/80.5.477