A short-term electrical nerve stimulation therapy can reverse spinal cord injury-associated nerve damage, potentially improving the benefits of current and emerging rehabilitation treatment. A team of researchers from The University of Sydney in Australia examined if an intensive, short-term nerve stimulation treatment could improve peripheral nerve function after spinal cord injuries (SCI).

The study has clearly demonstrated that an intensive six-week peripheral nerve stimulation programme was beneficial in improving nerve excitability parameters toward the normal range, the researchers said. Muscles contract when the nerves controlling them are activated by electrical impulses from the brain. The brain loses control of the muscles after spinal cord injuries because injured nerves do not excite easily or at all.

In addition to the nerves in the spine, the peripheral nerves — nerves going to the limbs — downstream of the injury site are also compromised after spinal cord injury, worsening muscle atrophy and other health complications that follow the injury. Maintaining peripheral nerve function soon after SCI may lessen health complications and “lead to better functional and rehabilitation outcome later on”.

“Therapies that help to maintain peripheral nerve function, such as the peripheral nerve stimulation paradigm used in the current study, need to be incorporated into the mainstream neuro-rehabilitation program in the early phases of SCI,” the study said.

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