Theory Behind Project Walk

Using Exercise to Move Science
Traditionally, paralysis rehabilitation and more specifically spinal cord injury rehabilitation has focused on compensation. The thought was that the human nervous system could not reorganize and improve function below the level of injury. Recent research in such areas of stroke and Project Walk's documented success with paralysis over the last two decades, has proven this to be false. At Project Walk we cannot guarantee who will regain function, however, we understand and recognize symptoms that present the potential to improve function below the level of injury for those with a spinal cord injury and improve overall functional recovery for other ailments. In the end we subscribe to the concept that "exercise is medicine" and through our program we are "Using Exercise to Move ScienceTM."

We tap into this potential through our world-renowned activity-based recovery program. Our program focuses on using specific exercises that are related to the same movement patterns that occur during human development. Through these movements we are spinal cord injury, rehabilitation, SCI, rehabilitation, project walkattempting to reestablish patterned neural activity within the central nervous system. These movement patterns are replicated by our clients with the assistance of our highly trained Specialists. Our highly-trained Certified Recovery Specialists have been taught to respond to the unique cues that each client’s nervous system gives them, and by providing the proper stimulus, help it to reorganize.

In addition to the customized exercises and highly trained staff, Project Walk also believes that the use of antispasmodic mediation and other medications associated with traditional paralysis and spinal cord injury treatment hinder the chance of recovery. Many of our clients have found the elimination of such medications improves their quality of life and helps them to progress in their recovery. As a result of increased activity and less medication, our clients improve their overall health and quality of life.
The Project Walk Method
The Project Walk Method is a proven method based upon nearly two decades of experience working with paralysis as well as current scientific research. Research on activity and how it relates to paralysis has progressed rapidly in the last few years. Especially after a spinal cord injury, the body begins to breakdown physiologically.

This is partially caused by reducing the effect of gravity on the body. The negative effects of the wheelchair can be reversed through exercise. The effects of exercise on someone with a spinal cord injury are similar to that of able bodied individuals1. Passive exercise alone has been shown to decrease physiological breakdown after a spinal cord injury2, but we believe weight bearing exercise may have an even greater effect. This type of exercise is what the human body was designed to do, standing, walking, lifting, and ultimately being in an upright position.

Many of the exercises we use are based on patterned neural activity. This is the process through which it is thought the central nervous system develops its structure and function in the growing human being. The continuous repetition of movement may help to create this neural pattern in the brain and spinal cord3. Also, relearning a specific motor task may be highly dependent on the repetitive stimuli provided when input from the brain is limited4. This is where our highly trained Specialists play a critical role in recovery. They are the best in the world at creating the proper stimulation to not just increase a client's health, but help them regain function below their level of injury.

spinal cord injury research, rehabilitation, project walk, recoveryProject Walk also recognizes the importance of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and exercise. Research suggests that through intense bouts of exercise that BDNF is increased and could result in a stimulation of stepping and an increase in axonal sprouting5-7. In short, the increase in BDNF through exercise can assist in reorganization of the nervous system. Additional information on the research behind Project Walk’s program or the current studies that Project Walk is conducting can be found in the research section of our website.
  1. Bickel CS, Slade JM, Haddad F, et al. Acute molecular responses of skeletal muscle to resistance exercise in able-bodied and spinal cord-injured subjects. J Appl Physiol. 2003; 94(6):2255-62
  2. Dupont-Versteegden EE, Houle JD, Gurley CM, et al. Early changes in muscle fiber size and gene expression in respose to spinal cord transaction and exercise. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 1998; 275(4):1124-33
  3. McDonald J, Becker D, Sadowsky C, et al. Late recovery following spinal cord injury. JNeurosurg Spine. 2002; 97(2)
  4. Ferreira CK, Beres-Jones JA, Behrman A, et al. Neural reorganization of the functionally isolated human spinal cord occurs after stand training. Program No. 824.19. 2003 Abstract Viewer/Itinerary Planner. Washington DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2003. Online.
  5. Jakeman LB, Wei P, Guan Z, et al. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor stimulates hindlimb stepping and sprouting of cholinergic fibers after spinal cord injury. Exp Neurol. 1998; 154(1):170-84
  6. Zhou L, Shine HD. Neurotrophic factors expressed in both cortex and spinal cord induce axonal plasticity after spinal cord injury. J Neurosci Res. 2003; 74(2):221-6
  7. Vega, SR, T Abel, R Lindschulten et al. Impact of exercise on neuroplasticity-related proteins in spinal cord injured humans. Neuroscience 2008; 153: 1064-1070
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