Whole-body vibration improves functional recovery in spinal cord injured rats
Source: Department of Anatomy I, University of Cologne, Köln, Germany.
Purpose: Whole-body vibration (WBV) is a relatively novel form of exercise used to improve neuromuscular performance in healthy individuals. Its usefulness as a therapy for patients with neurological disorders, in particular spinal cord injury (SCI), has received little attention in clinical settings and, surprisingly, even less in animal SCI models.
Method: We performed severe compression SCI at a low-thoracic level in Wistar rats followed by daily WBV starting 7 (10 rats) or 14 (10 rats) days after injury (WBV7 and WBV14, respectively) and continued over a 12-week post-injury period. Rats with SCI but no WBV training (sham, 10 rats) and intact animals (10 rats) served as controls.
- Compared to sham-treated rats, WBV did not improve BBB score, plantar stepping, or ladder stepping during the 12-week period.
- Accordingly, WBV did not significantly alter plantar H-reflex, lesion volume, serotonergic input to the lumbar spinal cord, nor cholinergic or glutamatergic inputs to lumbar motoneurons at 12 weeks after SCI.
- However, compared to sham, WBV14, but not WBV7, significantly improved body weight support (rump-height index) during overground locomotion and overall recovery between 6-12 weeks and also restored the density of synaptic terminals in the lumbar spinal cord at 12 weeks.
- Most remarkably, WBV14 led to a significant improvement of bladder function at 6-12 weeks after injury.
Conclusion: These findings provide the first evidence for functional benefits of WBV in an animal SCI model and warrant further preclinical investigations to determine mechanisms underpinning this noninvasive, inexpensive, and easily delivered potential rehabilitation therapy for SCI.