Spinal cord injury has been recorded in the hieroglyphs of Egypt. You can imagine the trauma that might have been sustained by workers of the great pyramids. This would be one of the first recorded industrial accidents. Pictorial evidence of urinary catheterization has been recorded by these early historians. It seems that spinal cord injury and other paralysis have been with us since the dawn of mankind.
Life after a spinal cord injury can sometimes feel a little hopeless because you have to rely on someone else for everything, even simple everyday tasks like feeding yourself or brushing your teeth. Although modern medicine has not yet found a way to cure paralysis, modern technology is starting to bridge the gap.
Table of contents
- How to adapt on your daily life
- Functional devices assist with everyday tasks
- Neomano: Regain hand function and independence
More than one third of spinal cord injury survivors sustain an injury that causes damage to the spinal cord in the cervical region and results in tetraplegia. Most people with tetraplegia remain wheelchair-dependent and reliant on others for physical care. Limited hand and upper limb function is often more disabling and of greater importance to them than their inability to walk. Even modest improvements in hand function can have life-changing implications. For example, a small amount of finger movement enables a person with tetraplegia to use a keyboard, press a switch, scratch the face and turn the page of a book. The ability to do these simple tasks reduces dependency on others, improves potential for employment and enhances quality of life. Expanding these activities could be the aim of rehabilitation.
Over the years there have been many functional splints and devices created to assist people with everyday tasks. One of the most commonly used functional devices is called a universal cuff. A universal cuff can be used in a variety of ways such as to hold a feeding utensil, tooth brush, or makeup brush, etc. Depending on the level of the spinal cord injury, one may require a wrist support splint along with the universal cuff or a mobile arm support which will provide a gravity eliminated position for the upper extremity, allowing active movement while utilizing less muscle strength.
Another common practice is utilizing foam to build up objects such as feeding utensils, tooth brush, or writing utensils. If someone needs a little more support for writing they may be recommended a functional writing splint such as a figure eight splint or a Wanchik Writer splint.
There have been many other devices and custom splints created in order to perform fun activities such as gardening, fishing and painting.
Soft robotics is an emerging discipline that combines the classical principles of robotics with soft materials and could provide a new class of active assistive devices. Neofect has created a soft robotic assistive device called NeoMano that helps with hand motions in order to give people back their hand function and independence while only requiring one device. NeoMano is a wearable robotic glove that assists with the grasp and release of objects. The glove is a partial-glove design that enables the thumb, pointer and middle finger to perform grasp and release motions.
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Actuated by the motor and pulley, the wireless remote control enables the grip and release of the index & middle finger. When activated, the Grip button flexes the fingers to provide a gripping gesture. The Release button loosens the wires, allowing the hand to return to its original neutral position. The wire is highly elastic, which helps maintain wire integrity despite repetitive winding and loosening.
NeoMano can assist people with everyday tasks such as feeding, writing, exercising, and daily grooming tasks. People have even rediscovered old hobbies with the use of NeoMano, like golfing and photography!
- Becky Alter, OTR/LBecky is an occupational therapist and healthcare content writer based out of Denver, CO.
- June LeeClinical Manager / Physical Therapist