DailyTech reports that researchers are exploring an exciting area of study related to the effects of electrical stimulation to the lower spine. The therapeutic goal of these experiments, according to DailyTech, is to give paralyzed patients the ability to walk again.
However, there have been complaints from those involved in the experiments that the FDA is holding them up with red tape. Perhaps it’s at least understandable that the FDA is a little leery about allowing human patients to be implanted with new devices and charged with electricity without going through the usual long, rigorous application and testing processes that comes to mind whenever we think of government agencies with three letters in their names.
But watching from the outside and at face value, and with the number of people in the world who suffer from paralysis and/or spinal injuries and could possibly be treated with something as “simple” and ubiquitous as electricity… Well, it’s hard not to immediately sympathize with the researchers.
(Reminder: I’m just a blogger who writes about the air medical industry, with the occasional article about exciting healthcare breakthroughs. Consult the rest of the internet for information on some types of lumbar fractures, herniations, and treatment.)
VIDEO: A new technology called “balloon kyphoplasty” helps a man with a spinal fracture continue running.
Just about everyone probably encounters some form of back injury or pain at some point in their life — physicians see it all the time, paramedics and Air Medical Crewmembers take note of it before they transport a patient — and yet, it seems that many people (including myself) don’t actually know much about spinal injuries, back injuries, or back pain at all.
Many instances of back pain occur with muscle spasms, inflammation of soft tissue, or arthritis. Additionally, “wear and tear” to the spine from car accidents, old traumas, sports, and obesity can also cause spinal discs to lose their cushioning ability, bulge, or protrude backwards. Herniations, spinal injuries, and other more serious conditions may or may not require surgery, though spinal disc herniation does not require surgery in the majority of cases. However, in some cases (such as herniation with high neurological deficit) surgery may be considered a “last resort” when non-invasive treatments fail.
In the case of a severe spinal cord injury (SCI) resulting in paralysis, rehabilitation with the goal of very slowly repairing the damage, through a variety of methods in an individual rehabilitation regimen recommended by medical professionals.
Electrical stimulation could — and that’s a big could — be a missing piece to the puzzle of how to get some SCI patients walking again.
The Non-Invasive Future of Paralysis / Spinal Injury Treatment
We all prefer more non-invasive or minimally-invasive surgery to the alternative. As surgical technology advances, the ratio of invasive to less invasive surgeries will naturally (most likely) change more in favor of non-invasive procedures, like electrostimulation.
If there’s even a chance that electrostimulation to the lower spine could restore the ability to walk (and there’s a lot of evidence that it’s a possibility) then the slowing of the experimental stages in this relatively new field is disheartening to say the least. However, one can certainly see both sides’ point of view on this issue.
We’re not saying either side is right, or wrong. As always, we’re just optimistic that these researchers are on the right track to an incredible breakthrough.
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