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Spinal cord injury treatments studied

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IOWA CITY, Iowa, April 5 (UPI) — University of Iowa scientists say early intervention and electrical stimulation can reduce Osteoporosis and Atrophy caused by spinal cord injuries.

Researcher Richard Shields, a professor of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, and colleagues say electrical stimulation causes muscle contraction and exerts mechanical loading on targeted bone, thereby significantly reducing severe osteoporosis and muscle atrophy caused by spinal cord injury.

Virtually every spinal cord injury patient develops osteoporosis and muscle atrophy after injury. The bone thinning that occurs very rapidly — an average loss of 30 percent in bone mineral density in just three years — makes the paralyzed limbs particularly vulnerable to fracture.

“The question is will an 18-year-old injured today be a good candidate for that cure or repair if their bone is so brittle it can’t bear weight or their muscles are virtually useless?” Shields asks.

“The long-range issues relate to helping people injured now remain good candidates for a future cure,” said Shields. “The short-term effects are improving the patient’s health quality and preventing secondary complications.”

The research appeared in the March 1 issue of Spine.

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