09 June 2016
The month of May was even busier than usual for our orthotists Sam Walmsley and David Williams. They attended a two-day Masterclass at Birkdale Neuro Rehabilitation Centre where Prof Daniel Becker M.D. lectured on the latest Functional Electronic Stimulation (FES) techniques. FES is being pioneered as a treatment for spinal injury patients. As the director and founder of the International Neuro Rehabilitation Institute, Dr Becker is considered to be at the forefront of this medical advance, so naturally Sam and David were excited to join this event and explore how FES can be applied in conjunction with orthotic treatments to improve the outlook for spinal injury patients. Spinal injury can result from a variety of scenarios, including trauma injuries, spinal infections, such as Transverse Myelitis and the ongoing effects of degenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis.
Functional Electric Stimulation or FES is the use of electrical stimulation to contract muscles via electrodes placed on the skin. The stimulation of those muscles then produces a functional movement of the affected limb and is coordinated by a triggering system such as a footswitch of a movement sensor.
Dr Becker and his team are involved in research that suggests that FES combined with targeted, controlled exercise can actually rewire the brain’s neurology to rehabilitate the spine.
More general information about FES can be found on our Functional Electronic Stimulation web page.
Dr Becker is also an expert in stem cell therapy and adheres to the principle first put forward by Göttingen University’s Siegrid Löwel that “cells that fire together wire together”. Recent news stories have highlighted medical techniques where stem cells are implanted in the body to try and regrow the nervous system. But Dr Becker’s research has shown that, in fact, we already have stem cells present in the spine and all over our bodies. When the body experiences an injury, the stem cells travel to the site of the injury. But research suggests that when they arrive at the injured site they don’t “switch on”.
So the problem is not to do with the location of stem cells, it’s actually to do with working out how we can activate them at the injured site. Dr Becker believes from his research that the best way to do that is through a programme of targeted exercise combined with FES, to stimulate the stem cells to promote regeneration.
Often, patients with severe spinal injury or trauma are treated in a time-bound way. It tends to be the case that if no improvement has been shown within a specific time period then the patient will be assessed as having no further chance of recovery. But there is a growing body of research to suggest that, when a programme of FES and targeted exercise is undertaken, recovery can actually be possible even in the longer term. That’s a significant development for spinal injury patients who may have previously believed that there is nothing more that can be done and that they face a lifetime of paralysis.
Working with LOC and Elaine has been a great experience – they really take the time to look at your child and understand their individual challenges and needs. For parents who are in the same position that we were, I would say do your research – see what clinics are available near you and what the costs are, but my feeling is it’s worth every penny.
After 10 years of daily physiotherapy and swimming, not to mention SDR, hamstring and tendon lengthening, we have finally achieved independent walking – it was a mother’s day gift that would take some beating.
LOC’s video vector technology measures exactly where Austin’s weight is being distributed, how his hips are moving and how his legs are moving. It’s those insights that have made his new AFOs so effective. Even within a few days, LOC’s splints have had more impact on his independence of movement than anything else we have done.
Since his new orthoses, his change has been remarkable. He is more mobile and can walk independently. Jason is now walking indoors and outdoors and is unrestricted. He is now properly enjoying the summer sunshine for the first time in a few years with no complaints of pain.
It has been a breath of fresh air – LOC’s ability to accommodate Sophie’s circumstances and manufacture her orthotics so quickly has taken a huge amount of potential stress away. Alan talks to Sophie as well - she looks forward to seeing him. He has even been able to fulfil her request to have her SMOs decorated with unicorns! It makes her feel special and much happier about wearing them.
I can now go a mile without having to stop, so it is a lot better and I’m walking in a regular pattern now. The orthotic fits perfectly because LOC took proper mouldings and photographs; they were very thorough.
Amelia was always looking for something to hold on to, now she runs around. Sam really puts in that extra effort to make the clients happy. I’d recommend LOC because they have all the equipment and extremely professional staff who have been trained by world-renowned physiotherapist Elaine Owen.
Lilac just flits about now. Every day she's getting stronger and our expectation now. We are absolutely with The London Orthotics Consultancy for the long haul now. We’ve found a business that can provide what we need and who we trust, and it’s the trust that's the most important thing to us.
My left knee hyperextends and Sam felt he could improve that condition with a different design of brace and also improve my gait with some other adjustments. The brace was such a success that I used it solely after receiving it. I am most thankful to Sam and his colleagues for their dedication to my case and their prompt assistance, which changed a potential disaster into a great tourist visit.
Multidisciplinary teams in business will sit down together and discuss a project with all parties concerned, each adding their particular expertise and insight. This is what it is like at London Orthotic Consultancy (LOC) but on a more personal level: Teamwork is evident. The camaraderie and mutual respect are undeniable. The attention to the smallest achievement is uplifting.
The orthotics help support my foot. Not only that, they have endured daily use, training for the Marathon des Sables, the race itself and they are still going! I am amazed that they survived the MDS and they are still being used today.
For LOC, the potential exists for us to harness this growing understanding of stem cell recovery by combining FES with an advanced programme of bespoke orthotics that can support and stimulate the right exercise. This can open new doors for patients who may have thought they are beyond any improvement.
This type of treatment is not easy and it’s not a magic button – the process requires hard work from patients and it’s vital that a programme of FES and orthotic exercise is coordinated with conventional drug therapy and a well-designed physio programme. But research and case studies so far do suggest that the right combination of these treatments can bring new hope for patients – and the potential to harness FES to treat our own patients is something that LOC is very excited about.
If you would like to find out more about this subject or talk to a LOC orthotist about spinal injury treatment, simply contact LOC online or call us on 0208 974 9989.
We have the following facilities and amenities at our Kingston Upon Thames location:
We also have the Gait Laboratory for orthotics patients and Onsite Manufacturing for speedy turnarounds and adjustments whilst you wait.
Clothing worn is dependent on which clinic you are attending. You will be sent a letter detailing what clothing to wear along with all other details prior to any appointment at the clinic.