Exercise therapy and recovery after SCI: evidence that shows early intervention improves recovery of function. Academic Article uri icon


  • STUDY DESIGN: This was designed as an experimental study. OBJECTIVES: Locomotor training is one of the most effective strategies currently available for facilitating recovery of function after an incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI). However, there is still controversy regarding the timing of treatment initiation for maximal recovery benefits. To address this issue, the present study compares the effects of exercise initiated in the acute and secondary phase of SCI. SETTING: Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA. METHODS: Rats received a moderate spinal contusion injury and began an exercise program 1 (D1-EX) or 8 days (D8-EX) later. They were individually placed into transparent exercise balls for 60min per day, for 14 consecutive days. Control rats were placed in exercise balls that were rendered immobile. Motor and sensory recovery was assessed for 28 days after injury. RESULTS: The D1-EX rats recovered significantly more locomotor function (BBB scale) than controls and D8-EX rats. Moreover, analyses revealed that rats in the D8-EX group had significantly lower tactile reactivity thresholds compared with control and D1-EX rats, and symptoms of allodynia were not reversed by exercise. Rats in the D8-EX group also had significantly larger areas of damage across spinal sections caudal to the injury center compared with the D1-EX group. CONCLUSION: These results indicate that implementing an exercise regimen in the acute phase of SCI maximizes the potential for recovery of function.

published proceedings

  • Spinal Cord

author list (cited authors)

  • Brown, A. K., Woller, S. A., Moreno, G., Grau, J. W., & Hook, M. A.

citation count

  • 29

complete list of authors

  • Brown, AK||Woller, SA||Moreno, G||Grau, JW||Hook, MA

publication date

  • January 2011