Modification of spasticity with transcutaneous stimulation of the spinal cord in individuals with spinal cord injury

A pilot study

Spasticity is reported as restricting activities of daily living (ADL) in some individuals with spinal cord injury. Promising results from two smaller studies indicated that transcutaneous stimulation of the spinal cord could reduce spasticity in lower extremities and increase walking speed. To verify these findings, a pilot study was conducted with the aim to assess the effect of transcutaneous stimulation of the spinal cord on spasticity after one single treatment.

​Methods

  • 14 participants (men/women = 12/2) aged 23-66 years, with SCI C4 – T12, AIS A – D participated, of whom 7 were able to walk.
  • 30 minutes of transcutaneous stimulation of the spinal cord was applied using NeuroTrac multiTENS from Quintet (symmetrical, rectangular impulses, 2 ms phase, 50 Hz).
  • Four electrodes were placed bilaterally, two paravertebral at level T11-12 and two on the lower abdomen. The current density should result in paresthesia under the electrodes.
  • Clinical examinations and questionnaires were performed before, directly after and 2 hours after the stimulation.

Results

Preliminary results indicate a statistically significant decrease in perceived grade of spasticity directly and 2 hours after one treatment (p < 0.01). The reduction in walking speed was minimal and not significant.

Conclusions

The stimulation was well tolerated, and participants reported less spasticity after stimulation. The minimal change in walking speed in this sample could be due to the fact that some of the ambulatory participants used their spasticity for walking. We are now planning to investigate the effect of repetitive stimulations over a period of time.

Download poster presentation (pdf)

Project group

  • Wiebke Höfers, PT, M.Sc.
  • Vivien Jørgensen, PT, P.hd.
  • Anne Birgitte Flaaten, PT
  • Anne M. Lannem, PT, P.hd.
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