Combined use of body weight support, functional electric stimulation, and treadmill training to improve walking ability in individuals with chronic incomplete spinal cord injury

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2001 Jun;82(6):818-24. doi: 10.1053/apmr.2001.23752.


Objective: To assess the effect of an intervention combining body weight support (BWS), functional electric stimulation (FES), and treadmill training on overground walking speed (OGWS), treadmill walking speed, speed and distance, and lower extremity motor scores (LEMS).

Design: Before and after comparison.

Setting: Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Participants: Nineteen subjects with American Spinal Injury Association class C injury who were at least 1 year postinjury and had asymmetrical lower extremity function.

Intervention: Subjects trained 1.5 hours per day, 3 days per week, for 3 months. The training consisted of body weight-supported treadmill walking assisted by electric stimulation. Stimulation was applied to common peroneal nerve of the weaker lower extremity (LE) and timed to assist with the swing phase of the step cycle.

Main outcome measures: OGWS in the absence of both BWS and FES; LEMS, and treadmill training parameters of speed and distance.

Results: Over the course of training, there was a significant increase in OGWS (from.12 +/- 0.8m/s to .21 +/- .15m/s, p = .0008), treadmill walking speed (from .23 +/- .12m/s to.49 +/- .20m/s, p = .00003), and treadmill walking distance (from 93 +/- 84m to 243 +/- 139m, p = .000001). The median LEMS increased significantly for both the stimulated and nonstimulated leg (from 8 to 11 in the FES-assisted leg, from 15 to 18 in the nonassisted leg, p < .005 for each).

Conclusions: All subjects showed improvement in OGWS and overall LE strength. Further research is required to delineate the essential elements of these particular training strategies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paralysis / rehabilitation*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Walking*