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Technology helps those with spinal cord injuries walk

For most people who are told that they have suffered a spinal cord injury, the first thought that typically goes through their head is: will I be able to walk again? The prognosis has always been relatively grim for people who have suffered a complete injury to their middle or lower back. For them, paraplegia means losing the ability to move their legs and therefore their ability to walk. This can be devastating news to hear because it means a person's life will be changed forever.

New advancements in technology though have improved the prognosis for patients all across the nation, including here in California. Some technology, such as the exoskeleton suit made by Ekso Bionics, is even giving paraplegics hope that one day they will overcome their disability and return to the life they once had.

The reason the exoskeleton suit is giving hope to paraplegics is the fact that it allows people to not only stand on their own legs but walk and move around as well. This is done through a specially designed harness and computer system that register signals sent from two walking sticks and the user's own movements. The system senses how much power the user is putting into movement and adjusts accordingly to give them a "human-like non-robotic" stride.

What was once science fiction is now a reality for victims of spinal cord injuries who may have had concerns about whether they would ever be able to walk again after suffering the injury. Although the technology is expensive, the cost might be offset by benefits received through insurance. If the injury was the direct result of someone else's negligence, the cost may even be offset by compensation received because of a civil action.

Source: The Guardian, "The future for augmented humans: 'In five years you'll see exoskeletons on the building site'," Samuel Gibbs, Jan. 7, 2015

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