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What to expect from gait training after a spinal cord injury

If you suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident, you may have difficulty walking afterward. This can range in severity depending on the level of the injury and whether the damage is complete or incomplete.

Regardless of the extent of your injury, your rehabilitation may include gait training. According to the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, gait training allows you to practice walking in a safe environment for the purpose of relearning how to ambulate independently.

Gait training uses certain equipment and devices

Depending on the extent of your injury, you may not have the strength or balance to support the weight of your body for ambulation. Therefore, you may require a body-weight support device. This consists of a harness that you wear to support part of the weight of your body. Some of these devices hang from the ceiling while others roll along the ground. If you have sufficient upper body strength, you may also use parallel bars to support yourself during gait training.

Once you gain sufficient strength and balance, your therapist may give you assistive devices to help with ambulation during weight training. These may include canes, forearm crutches or walkers.

Gait training has specific goals

One of the top priorities with gait training is to prevent you from falling. There is always a risk of injury from a fall, but you may be at a greater risk for fractures after a spinal cord injury because a lack of physical movement can cause your bones to become fragile.

The ability to walk unaided in any community environment without falling is the ultimate goal of gait training. However, if your injury is too severe, you may never reach that goal. You may have to use assistive devices for ambulation for the rest of your life, or you may never be able to walk again at all.


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