Comparison of the effects of body-weight-supported treadmill training and tilt-table standing on spasticity in individuals with chronic spinal cord injury
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OBJECTIVE: Determine the effects of body-weight-supported treadmill training (BWSTT) and tilt-table standing (TTS) on clinically assessed and self-reported spasticity, motor neuron excitability, and related constructs in individuals with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI). DESIGN: Random cross-over. METHODS: Seven individuals with chronic SCI and spasticity performed thrice-weekly BWSTT for 4 weeks and thrice-weekly TTS for 4 weeks, separated by a 4-week wash-out. Clinical (Modified Ashworth Scale, Spinal Cord Assessment Tool for Spinal reflexes) and self-report (Spinal Cord Injury Spasticity Evaluation Tool, Penn Spasm Frequency Scale) assessments of spasticity, quality of life (Quality of Life Index Spinal Cord Injury Version - III), functional mobility (FIM Motor Subscale), plus soleus H-reflex were measured at baseline, after the first training session and within 2 days of completing each training condition. RESULTS: In comparison with TTS, a single session of BWSTT had greater beneficial effects for muscle tone (effect size (ES) = 0.69), flexor spasms (ES = 0.57), and the H/M ratio (ES = 0.50). Similarly, flexor spasms (ES = 0.79), clonus (ES = 0.66), and self-reported mobility (ES = 1.27) tended to benefit more from 4 weeks of BWSTT than of TTS. Participation in BWSTT also appeared to be favorable for quality of life (ES = 0.50). In contrast, extensor spasms were reduced to a greater degree with TTS (ES = 0.68 for single session; ES = 1.32 after 4 weeks). CONCLUSION: While both BWSTT and TTS may provide specific benefits with respect to spasticity characteristics, data from this pilot study suggest that BWSTT may result in a broader range of positive outcomes.