Does locomotor training improve pulmonary function in patients with spinal cord injury?

The goal of this study was to compare the effects of a locomotor training (LT) combined rehabilitation program with a rehabilitation-only program on pulmonary function in spinal cord injury (SCI) patients by examining spirometric analyses of the patients. Fifty-two patients (40 male, 12 female) with SCI participated in the study. The subjects were separated into two groups: the first group (group A) received both LT and a rehabilitation program and the second group (group B) received only the rehabilitation program for 4 weeks. The LT program was prescribed as three 30-min sessions per week. Pulmonary function was evaluated spirometrically in both groups before and after the rehabilitation program. The spirometric values of the SCI patients, including forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in 1 second, forced expiratory flow rate and vital capacity (VC) and VC%, increased significantly with LT in the first group (all P<0.05). Maximum voluntary ventilation values increased significantly in both groups (both P<0.05).

These findings indicate that LT is effective for improving pulmonary function in SCI patients. The study also highlights the useful effects of LT, which are likely the result of erect posture, gait and neuroplastic changes that prevent potential complications in SCI patients.