Spinal cord injuries can cause some people to take very desperate steps, like going to other countries, to receive stem cell transplants. Most of these approaches are often not controlled trials and the patient undergoes a lot of risk and expense.
Researcher, Karim Fouad, University of Alberta, Edmonton, reports in an article recently published in the journal Brain, that rehabilitation training after a cervical spinal cord injury has been overshadowed in recent years by the cutting-edge promises of stem cell research.
Fouad found in animal studies that when animals with an incomplete spinal cord injury received intensive training, over many weeks, the animal subjects were able to perform significantly better at completing tasks which they were able to do before their injury, when compared to the group that received no training. Astoundingly, the animals that received post-injury training nearly doubled the success rate of the untrained animals.
Research shows that after an incomplete spinal cord injury there is a moderate amount of recovery based on a rewiring process, which is a natural response of the nervous system to the injury. What Fouad found is that intensive rehabilitation training actually promotes this naturally occurring process.
The author notes that the way animals succeed in a post-injury task was not the same as before the injury. Animals adapt and develop new ways to do a task. He suggests that people with these injuries should note that they do not need to do things the same way they did them before their injury. What is important is that they attempt to practice hard and find their own adaptive strategy.