Author Archives: admin

Epidural Stimulation

If you have a spinal cord injury in 2019, there is a reason to be excited: new research shows that epidural stimulation can significantly help people with spinal cord injuries regain movement and sensation. Accidentally discovered to have the ability to treat spinal cord injuries by Dr. Susan Harkema at the University of Louisville Kentucky, epidural stimulation has helped dozens of people with spinal cord injuries across the country stand and take steps, as well as experience a return of important autonomic functions such as bladder and bowel control, sexual function, and temperature regulation.

How Does It Work?

Epidural stimulation involves the application of a continuous electrical current to the lower part of the spinal cord. When taking part in epidural stimulation, the person with paralysis has a chip implanted into their dura (the protective coating of the spinal cord) and a remote is utilized to communicate with the chip, which then controls the frequency and intensity of the electrical current. When the stimulator is turned on, people with paralysis can notice results like increased movement; however, many are reporting that their epidural stimulation results are long-lasting, even when the stimulator is turned off.

The first person with a spinal cord injury to undergo epidural stimulation was Rob Summersin 2009. Rob, a former professional baseball player, can now stand and coach baseball even with the stimulator turned off. Researchers were shocked by his immense progress since the stimulation, and they have continued to be shocked by similar cases across the country over the past ten years.

Where is it Available?

Epidural stimulation has been so successful that facilities across the country have taken on the research as well, including the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In 2018, the first case of independent walking induced by epidural stimulation was reported by this Mayo Clinic in a 29-year old paraplegic. The subject used a walker to walk across a pathway independently when the stimulator was activated.

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is currently utilizing 36 subjects with spinal cord injuries in an epidural simulation trial called The Big Idea. This Foundation is trying to recreate Dr. Harkema’s original results based on her first four subjects. To learn more about The Big Idea, visit

Researchers at UCLA are also partaking in epidural stimulation trials. Researchers from universities across the country are increasingly taking part in epidural stimulation research. If you would like to participate in epidural stimulate, consider asking the university nearest you to look into starting epidural stimulation research.

– Watch: The Big Idea: Epidural Stimulation Research for SCI 

– Watch: Epidural Stimulation Research for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery 

The Importance of Moving Your Whole Body

Traditional inpatient rehabilitation usually lasts no longer than a few months, and then you are sent home for outpatient physical therapy. Within a few months, however, outpatient physical therapy ends as well. Without attending inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation, staying active while living with a spinal cord injury can be extremely difficult. 

Fortunately, there are many ways you can still move your body and live an active lifestyle in spite of paralysis. These methods may not help you walk again, but they will help you keep your legs, arms, and overall cardiovascular health in great shape.

Activity-Based Therapy

Activity-based recovery programs focus on continued exercise after a patient is discharged from both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. These programs can help you increase your strength, as well as fight depression. Activity-based therapy has increased in popularity over the last 15 years, but unfortunately, most activity-based therapy programs are not covered by insurance. However, some people will use crowd-sourcing fundraisers to raise the necessary funds to take part in activity-based therapy. Several nonprofit organizations across the country also provide funds for activity-based programs for patients with financial need.

The therapists at activity-based facilities will help you stand using adaptive equipment, as well as walk using locomotion therapy. Getting out of your wheelchair and completing a serious workout is also a major part of this therapy, which unfortunately is not something you typically see in a traditional rehabilitation setting. Many people who participate in activity-based therapy see improvements in their overall muscle strength, balance, and coordination.

Learn more about activity-based therapy from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation: 


FES therapy, or functional electrical stimulation therapy, is designed to help people with severe paralysis move their bodies. FES therapy uses low-energy electrical pulses to stimulate muscles in people with paralysis. FES can be used on nearly any area of the body, causing the muscles to contract. People use FES to produce limb functions such as grasping, walking, and standing. Many patients will also use FES to help with chronic pain, as well as build up muscle to prevent pressure sores.

Many patients find that if they participate in FES therapy regularly over time, they develop the ability to move some muscles without FES assistance. FES can also help restore bladder and bowel function. However, one of the most extraordinary things FES can do is help people walk. A product called Parastep FES System helps people with paralysis walk again by combining FES therapy with the use of a walker. FES can also be used at home to maintain muscle mass and improve strength. Learn more about FES therapy here:


A passive method for moving paralyzed muscles is the use of exoskeletons. These life-enhancing machines help people stand upright and walk, and provide patients with the benefits of osteoporosis prevention and cardio strength. Fortunately, there are two exoskeleton models, developed by Ekso Bionics and ReWalk, now approved for home use by some insurance companies. 

Learn about Ekso here and ReWalk here

Elliptical Standing Frames

Standing frames have improved a lot over the last 15 years, with one of the biggest advancements being the standing frame that has an elliptical workout built-in (it will help you move your legs back and forth). As you stand, you can also move your legs, which helps with blood flow into your skin, and this helps prevent pressure sores. An elliptical standing frame also helps prevent osteoporosis. EasyStand standing frames are the #1 manufacturer of this design.

Moving your body on a regular basis after a spinal cord injury is key to maintaining your physical health. Staying active after sustaining an SCI may be difficult, but it is not impossible. Moving your whole body ultimately increases your physical health, improves your mental health, and can provide you with a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.