Paraplegia and Spinal Cord Injury
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In paraplegia and spinal cord injury, pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) will help these patients in supportive fashion. Obviously, PEMFs will not reverse the spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury is a very complex problem and it varies tremendously from person to person. From this perspective it is hard to generalize the benefits from one person to the next. In general, however, there may be benefits. These involve improving motor function, pain, basic tissue health, spasticity, and bladder function. In Europe they are using PEMFs in cerebral palsy patients. These patients often share similar features to spinal cord injuries, particularly with spasticity. The tissues below the level of the lesion are often unhealthy. This is because of the lack of appropriate spinal cord nerve “trophic” or nutritional support.
These tissues are more prone to breakdown and prolonged wound healing due to these trophic changes. PEMFs protect the tissues by maintaining an optimized level of vitality at the cell level. This is in the skin, muscles, soft tissue, etc. In addition, if there is any risk of tissue breakdown or wounds from pressure issues, these tissues would heal much faster. It is expected that with regular, daily health maintenance use of PEMFs, the tissues would be much less likely to breakdown in the first place. In several of my lymphedema patients, where the tissues are similarly poorly nourished because of inadequate drainage, there is a dramatic reduction of infections.
Needless to say, inadequate tissue protection from pressure may trump the potential benefit of PEMFs. In my mind, every para needs to have daily PEMF therapy to optimize health. The challenge of course will be to convince somebody who would expect PEMFs to reverse their injury or to dramatically improve their spinal cord function to use PEMFs, as it is one more thing they need to do. In the long run, though, with simple daily application, PEMFs may save the para a lot of grief and over time even gain additional function. To be able to have any reasonable chance at improving spinal cord function from PEMF therapy, as the spinal cord is still recovering from the injury, PEMFs should be started as soon as possible.