Will I Walk Again After a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury could potentially devastate your life. Whether you’ve been in a car accident, a victim of violence in some other way been hurt, your first question will likely be, “Will I be able to walk again?” The answer to that is an unsatisfying “maybe.” There are a few factors to consider.

First, there’s the determination of whether your injury is complete or incomplete. A complete injury means no nerve signals are passing through the injured part of your spinal cord, leaving you immobile. Often, that is a result of a nerve tear or other inoperable obstruction. An incomplete injury means some nerve signals are coming through, and there is mobility/feeling below the injury. Your doctor will conduct a somatosensory evoked potential (SSEP) test to stimulate nerve signals and determine how far they travel.

Overcoming incomplete injuries may be possible with rehabilitation. However, complete injuries will leave you completely unable to walk — at least for now. New technology called exoskeletons has made its way onto the scene. These tools attach to the legs and use small motors to help those who are paralyzed walk again, or at least simulate the action. Though exoskeletons are pricey right now, the price should drop (and possibly be covered by insurance) in the coming years.