Saturday, March 17, 2012

Trunk Muscle Function Study

The first research study I signed up for at the Blusson Spinal Cord Center was "Assessment of trunk muscle function in persons with spinal cord injury." The study is being conducted by people from the University of British Columbia as well as two foundations in Sweden - The Swedish Association for Survivors of Accident and Injury and the Swedish National Centre for Research in Sports. I went for the first part this week, which was an evaluation to see how much function I actually have in my abdomen. My injury is at T5, just above the abdomen, but I do have some muscles in there that work and that I can control.

There were several parts to the evaluation. First, they determined exactly where I had sensation to by using a roller with pins and cotton swabs. Next, I tried to do some twists and sit-ups while a research therapist felt to see what muscles were working. In sitting balance, I had to show how far up, forward and behind I could reach. Back in my chair, they measured how far I could reach forward and to the side before tipping over. Then there were some wheelchair mobility tests - I had to wheel between two cones as fast as I could, wheel up a ramp as far as I could with just one push, up another ramp as fast as I could, and then another speed test with a corner around a cone. Finally, I jumped successively higher curbs - a sheet of plywood was added each time. I was surprised here that I made it to 10cm (4 inches) before it got a bit dodgy. That is way higher than I thought I could do, and sketchy even coming down from that height.

One thing that worries me is that I was weighed for the first time since leaving rehab. I am still pretty low at 124 pounds, exactly the same as the last time I was weighed almost three years ago. Definitely I will have to work on that a bit. On the other hand, the research therapist said I have some (relatively) good strength in my trunk muscles and am pretty handy in my chair.

I go back twice for the next parts of the study. Using ultrasound and electromyography (EMG, which uses electrodes to measure the electrical activity in muscles), they will measure the thickness of my trunk muscles and see exactly what is happening inside, both while I'm resting and active. It will be interesting to see what they find!


  1. Wow!?
    What an amazing learning opportunity this is turning into!!??

    Smarters betters!!

    J Andrew

  2. You have made good progress on a difficult road.

    Prayers still going up for you from South Carolina.

    ...but eat, man, EAT!