A spinal cord injury (SCI) or stroke is a life-changing event that can impact how we move around the world, how we interact with people, and how we see ourselves. These injuries occur in the brain or spinal cord, but they can have detrimental effects to every system in the body. This blog will discuss what happens to bone health after an SCI or stroke, why an exoskeleton can address these impairments, and how the Indego exoskeleton can help users address their bone health concerns. Let’s get started.
Figure 1: How spinal cord injury (SCI) and stroke effect bone health.
Researchers found that five years after a spinal cord injury, 48% had osteoporosis4, but was less common in individuals who were able to walk (15%) compared to those who had to use a wheelchair (70%)5.
Figure 2: Comparison of normal healthy bone structure to osteoporotic bone.6
The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises are essential to improve and maintain bone density.7 Bone grows along lines of stress, and weightlifting and weight bearing can increase the stress on bones, which in turn increases bone development and strength. After a spinal cord injury or stroke, many people find themselves unable to regularly participate in weight bearing activities like standing and walking. The Indego exoskeleton can facilitate weight bearing and strength training activities as well as increase a person’s tolerance to standing by reducing the amount of assistance they require.
Weightbearing activities can improve body composition and bone health in the following ways:
- Increased bone mineral density
- Increased lean muscle mass
- Increased calf muscle diameter
- Increased tibial bone mineral density
- Decreased fat mass8
- Reversal of muscle atrophy9
As shown by extensive research, weight bearing activities can promote recovery of bone health. The Indego exoskeleton can assist individuals unable to stand or walk independently to participate in weightbearing activities in standing. Examples of standing activities that Indego therapists use for patients with SCI and stroke include static standing, dynamic balance training, standing exercises, performing self-care activities like grooming and meal preparation, and transferring from sitting to standing.
Figure 3: Indego used in “Pre Gait mode” to improve leg muscle strength:
Furthermore, the Indego can help individuals by facilitating weight bearing through walking on level an unlevel surfaces with variable levels of assistance to maximize goals of strength or efficiency.
Figure 4: (Left) Photo of user participating in functional tasks while using the Indego exoskeleton. (Right) Walking the dog using the Indego exoskeleton.
The Indego exoskeleton is an exciting technology that not only can help people with mobility impairments improve their ability to stand, walk, and participate in life, but it can also help improve the health of their bones. From weight bearing standing activities all the way to walking, Indego provides a wide variety of tasks that can support healthy bone growth. Here at Indego, we want to help you, your patient, or your loved one experience the highest quality of life, so let us help you use Indego the most efficient way.
We are happy to share more information on the Indego exoskeleton and the process of determining if you or someone you know are appropriate for this life changing technology.
About the Author:
Dr. Michelle Martin, PT, DPT, is a Neuro-IFRAH certified physical therapist for the Janz Corporation, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. Michelle graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she continued her education to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Michelle has worked with patients with neurological, orthopedic, cardiopulmonary, and geriatric related impairments. She enjoys helping patients progress and find creative ways to overcome their barriers to mobility. Michelle hiked 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and cherishes her role as an Indego Instructor in-training where she is able to help individuals with mobility impairments enjoy the freedom of walking.