Researchers at one university have trialed a minimally invasive electrical stimulation method that has resulted in remarkable enhancements in spinal cord injury patients’ arm and hand function. The technique includes placing band-aid-like patches to provide electrical pulses on the back of patients’ neck, helping to relax the nerves below.
In terms of mobility and independence in doing daily tasks, spinal cord disorders usually have significant implications for patients. Many such patients have very little use of their hands and arms, finding it impossible to survive without significant assistance. Physical therapy may improve, but it is often not enough to allow essential improvements in the hand’s movement.
Some study has demonstrated that electrical stimulators implanted can assist patients with spinal damage to recover some function, but the approach is intrusive. This latest research preferred a minimally invasive technique, where band-aid-like patches are put on the back of the neck around the wounded region of the skin, and eventual electrical stimulation takes place through the skin.
For all things, such as eating, brushing teeth, buttoning a shirt, among others, people use hands. Spinal cord injury patients rate gaining backhand function as the absolute priority for treatment. It is five to six times more essential than anything else that they ask for help on.
The researchers recruited people with spinal cord injuries and challenged them with and without electrical stimulation to perform physical exercises. Many of the patients showed dramatic gains in hand and arm function following a few months of preparation and electrical stimulation, with one being able to play a musical instrument for the first time in years. Strikingly, when the researchers checked up with them six months later, the changes continued to continue with the patients, indicating the approach could lead to long-term improvements