Adaptive Equipment for Spinal Cord Injury: The Best Assistive Devices for Patient Recovery

A spinal patient walks with assistance from a physical therapist

Are you curious about the optimal assistive devices for stroke recovery? Promote independence by providing adaptive equipment for your patients with spinal cord injuries.

This blog will share important adaptive tools for people suffering from spinal cord injuries and the best practices for improving mobility in your facility.

Assistive Equipment for Individuals with Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Because each spinal cord injury is unique, some people may benefit more than others from adaptive tools. Be sure to assess your patient’s gait and walking pattern before determining which pieces of equipment they may need.

Gait-training has the greatest functional benefits for those with incomplete spinal cord injuries. Depending on the severity of the injury, the patient may be more likely to walk with or without a mobility device. Consider using these assistive devices during physical therapy to help retrain your patient to walk:

Walking Poles

There are many benefits of using walking poles during therapy. Walking poles:

  • Reduce the stress of walking on the feet, legs, knees, and back
  • Aid balance and stability while walking
  • Improve posture so the patient can walk in a more upright position (this helps prevent back pain and boost breathing)
  • Reduce fatigue and improve endurance
  • Build muscles in arms, shoulders, and neck
A patient uses walking poles

Drawbacks of Walking Poles

  • If used incorrectly, walking poles can be more of a hazard than a supportive measure.
  • Carrying walking poles can be tiring
  • They can be a tripping hazard

Canes

Canes can help with balance problems resulting from spinal cord injuries. Canes can help:

  • Add more stability
  • Help with balance
  • Assist with pain while walking
  • Walk more safely and comfortably

Ankle Foot Orthoses

AFOs are external biomechanical devices that are applied to lower limbs to stabilize the joints, enhance gait, and restore physical functionality. AFOs aid ambulation through gait stages by providing foot clearance. They are used to limit or assist ankle and foot range of motion such as dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, improve balance, decrease the risk of falling, help with weak musculature of lower legs, and to return to previous activity or facilitate patient mobility.

AFOs can be found in different types and materials that can be modified according to the use and development of the person it is used for. Some different types of AFOs include:

  • Traditional Plastic AFOs
  • Swedish AFOs
  • Carbon Fiber AFOs
an example of an ankle-foot orthoses, which can be used on some patients recovering from spinal cord injury

Exoskeleton Walking Devices

Exoskeleton devices can help people walk after a neurological injury. The patient would be allowed to stand and move at eye level. An exoskeleton walking device can:

  • Allow complex movements
  • Help people with paralysis use their own muscles to perform functional tasks
  • Help individuals who may require more assistance
A front and back view of a man wearing an exoskeleton on his legs and torso

Solo-Step Overhead Harness System

The Solo-Step Safety overhead system can be an important assistive device during spinal cord injury recovery. It is a wearable safety harness, connected to an aluminum overhead track system, which is connected to the facility’s ceiling. The Solo-Step safety overhead system protects individuals from falling and hitting the ground during therapy.

Solo-Step works with a variety of patient types, including individuals suffering from spinal cord injuries. Some benefits of the Solo-Step safety overhead system include:

  • Increased patient confidence during therapy
  • Safety for the patient from falling and getting injured
  • Safety for the therapist from strain during therapy
  • Ability to combine with existing equipment (treadmills, stairs, parallel bars, etc.)
A physical therapist helps a spinal patient stand up from their wheelchair, while using an overhead harness for safety

For more information about the Solo-Step system, click here!