Author(s): FieldFote EC, Roach KE
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Impaired walking limits function after spinal cord injury (SCI), but training-related improvements are possible even in people with chronic motor incomplete SCI. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to compare changes in walking speed and distance associated with 4 locomotor training approaches. DESIGN: This study was a single-blind, randomized clinical trial. SETTING: This study was conducted in a rehabilitation research laboratory. PARTICIPANTS: Participants were people with minimal walking function due to chronic SCI. INTERVENTION: Participants (n=74) trained 5 days per week for 12 weeks with the following approaches: treadmill-based training with manual assistance (TM), treadmill-based training with stimulation (TS), overground training with stimulation (OG), and treadmill-based training with robotic assistance (LR). MEASUREMENTS: Overground walking speed and distance were the primary outcome measures. RESULTS: In participants who completed the training (n=64), there were overall effects for speed (effect size index [d]=0.33) and distance (d=0.35). For speed, there were no significant between-group differences; however, distance gains were greatest with OG. Effect sizes for speed and distance were largest with OG (d=0.43 and d=0.40, respectively). Effect sizes for speed were the same for TM and TS (d=0.28); there was no effect for LR. The effect size for distance was greater with TS (d=0.16) than with TM or LR, for which there was no effect. Ten participants who improved with training were retested at least 6 months after training; walking speed at this time was slower than that at the conclusion of training but remained faster than before training. LIMITATIONS: It is unknown whether the training dosage and the emphasis on training speed were optimal. Robotic training that requires active participation would likely yield different results. CONCLUSIONS: In people with chronic motor incomplete SCI, walking speed improved with both overground training and treadmill-based training; however, walking distance improved to a greater extent with overground training.
This article was published in Phys Ther
and referenced in Journal of Spine