Gait Training after a Spinal Cord Injury

Gait Training - Spinal Cord Surgery

Recovery of walking function is one of the primary goals of people who have suffered a spinal cord injury.  Gait training refers to learning how to walk again after an injury and it can improve endurance, posture and muscular health.  For a person who has had a spinal cord injury, there are a number of physiological benefits to walking.   Walking improves spasticity, prevents chances of osteoporosis, pressure sores, improves digestion, blood circulation and many more.

Gait Training - Spinal Cord SurgeryThere are many physical factors which determine if a person with spinal cord injury can walk again.   Factors such as level of injury, severity of injury, age, level of fitness, level of sensation and pain and other conditions such as spasticity and joint problems.  Individuals with incomplete Spinal cord injury have more potential to walk again than those with complete spinal cord injury.   A physiotherapist or other clinician will determine if gait training is appropriate through various tests of strength, balance, sensation and range of motion.

Based on the level of strength and balance, there are various forms of gait training available for individuals with different levels of Spinal Cord Injury.  Equipment such as parallel bars, walkers, braces, body-weight support harness and Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) device may be used in the training.  Some of these devices are on the ground and some are placed over a treadmill.  The person will be assisted either by a Physiotherapist of a Robotic device to help with balance and stepping movements.

Gait training takes place in a Physical therapy clinic, but it can also take place in the person’s home by a visiting Physiotherapist.  Although there may not be access to the necessary equipment, it is beneficial to learn in a familiar home and community environment to tackle real life obstacles.  Preventing falls is a top priority for someone undergoing gait training or walking after a spinal cord injury as they have fragile bones which can lead to serious fractures.

Gait training is a vital element of rehabilitation in a person with spinal cord injury.  By practicing as much as possible during a physiotherapy session and working hard, the person will be able to effectively learn to walk again.

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