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Skeletal Health in the Lower Limbs Following Spinal Cord Injury

Volunteers with spinal cord injury (SCI) needed for a study on exercise and bone health.

We are seeking adult participants whose legs are paralyzed from traumatic SCI to participate in a VA-funded study on the potential of exercise activities to impact bone health after SCI.  Volunteers will receive a bone density scan and will be trained to perform several exercise activities, some using functional electrical stimulation (FES).

How can I participate:

For more information, contact Becky Lambach by phone at (650) 493-5000 x69411 or

You are eligible if you are:
  • At least 18 years old,
  • Have a C7 to T12 AIS-A or AIS-B spinal cord injury
  • More than 6-months post injury.

Brief study description:

Individuals with complete spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are at high risk for bone fractures in their legs because of the loss of bone mass which occurs after injury.  Fractures after SCI are costly to treat and often lead to additional medical complications.  In order to reduce the incidence of fractures, more effective rehabilitation strategies are needed to prevent bone loss after SCI.  Exercises that provide sufficient mechanical stimulus (forces and loading cycles) to the legs may have the potential to slow or reverse post-SCI bone loss.  The goal of this research study is to compare the mechanical stimulus produced during different exercise activities in order to determine which exercises may have the greatest potential to benefit bone health after SCI.

We plan to enroll 12 participants in this study.  All participants will have sustained a traumatic SCI more than 6 months prior and have C7-T12 injury levels.  Participants will have bone density measurements taken of their lower spine and both legs.  They will participate in a muscle conditioning program using functional electrical stimulation (FES) on their thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) and will participate in four activities designed to exercise the legs:  1) standing in a standing frame; 2) standing frame with FES on the quadriceps; 3) FES cycling and 4) FES rowing.  Participants will come to VA Palo Alto approximately 3 times each week for about 3 months or until all study procedures are complete.

The results of this study will provide information about the potential of different exercises to benefit bone health after SCI with long-term goal of developing exercise programs that decrease the incidence of fracture by preventing or reversing post-SCI  bone loss.