New treatment allows some people with spinal cord injury to regain hand and arm function – University of Washington

Participants progressed to more difficult versions of the training exercises (for example, going from picking up a ping pong ball to picking up a tiny bead, shown here) as they improved. Note: This photo was taken in 2019. Marcus Donner/Center for Neurotechnology

Almost 18,000 Americans experience traumatic spinal cord injuries every year. Many of these people are unable to use their hands and arms and can’t do everyday tasks such as eating, grooming or drinking water without help.

Using physical therapy combined with a noninvasive method of stimulating nerve cells in the spinal cord, University of Washington researchers helped six Seattle area participants regain some hand and arm mobility. That increased mobility lasted at least three to six months after treatment had ended. The research team published these findings Jan. 5 in the journal IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.

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