UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Improvements in skilled walking associated with kinematic adaptations in people with spinal cord injury Malik, Raza N; Eginyan, Gevorg; Lynn, Andrea K; Lam, Tania


Introduction: Individuals with motor-incomplete SCI (m-iSCI) remain limited community ambulators, partly because they have difficulty with the skilled walking requirements of everyday life that require adaptations in inter-joint coordination and range of motion of the lower limbs. Following locomotor training, individuals with SCI show improvements in skilled walking and walking speed, however there is limited understanding of how adaptations in lower limb kinematics following training contribute to improvements in walking. Objective: To determine the relationship between changes in lower limb kinematics (range of motion and inter-joint coordination) and improvements in walking function (walking speed and skilled walking) following locomotor training. Methods: Lower limb kinematics were recorded from 8 individuals with chronic m-iSCI during treadmill walking before and after a 3-month locomotor training program. Data were also collected from 5 able-bodied individuals to provide normative values. In individuals with SCI, muscle strength was used to define the stronger and weaker limb. Motion analysis was used to determine, hip, knee and ankle angles. Joint angle-angle plots (cyclograms) were used to quantify inter-joint coordination. Shape differences between pre-and post-training cyclograms were used to assess the changes in coordination and their relation to improvements in walking function. Walking function was assessed using the 10MWT for walking speed and the SCI-FAP for skilled walking. Comparing pre- and post-training cyclograms to the able-bodied pattern was used to understand the extent to which changes in coordination involved the recovery of normative motor patterns. Results: Following training, improvements in skilled walking were significantly related to changes in hip-ankle coordination (ρ = − .833, p = 0.010) and knee range of motion (ρ = .833, p = 0.010) of the weaker limb. Inter-joint coordination tended to revert towards normative patterns, but not completely. No relationships were observed with walking speed. Conclusion: Larger changes in hip-ankle coordination and a decrease in knee range of motion in the weaker limb during treadmill walking were related to improvements in skilled walking following locomotor training in individuals with SCI. The changes in coordination seem to reflect some restoration of normative patterns and the adoption of compensatory strategies, depending on the participant.

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