Skip to Main Content
Epidural spinal cord stimulation (ESCS) combined with partial weight bearing therapy (PWBT) has been reported to facilitate recovery of functional walking for individuals after chronic incomplete spinal cord injury (ISCI). Muscle activities were analyzed in this report to examine the modulation effect of ESCS on muscle recruitment during gait training. Two ISCI individuals participated in the study and both are classified as ASIA C with low motor scores in the lower limbs. Stimulating electrodes were placed at the epidural space over T10-L2 spinal segments, along the midline in participant 1 (S1), and off-midline in participant 2 (S2). Surface electromyograms (EMGs) from leg muscles under both ESCS ON and OFF conditions recorded during treadmill gait were analyzed in time-frequency domains. ESCS application produced acute modulations in muscle activities in both participants, but the observed pattern, magnitude, and spectral content of the EMGs differed. In S1, ESCS induced a significant shift in the temporal pattern of muscle activity toward normal comparing with that when ESCS was OFF, though without eliciting noticeable change in frequency distribution between ESCS ON and OFF conditions. When ESCS was applied in S2, a modulation of EMG magnitude was observed and, consequently, improved joint kinematics during walking. In this case, a stimulation entrainment appeared in time-frequency analysis. The results suggest that ESCS activates neural structures in the dorsal aspect of the spinal cord and facilitates gait-related muscle recruitment. The exact effects of ESCS depend on the electrode placement and possibly injury history and residual functions, but in general ESCS produces a positive effect on improved walking speed, endurance, and reduced sense of effort in both ISCI subjects.