Does galvanic vestibular stimulation decrease spasticity in clinically complete spinal cord injury?

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The aim of this study was to determine changes in clinical and biomechanical measures of spasticity after administering galvanic vestibular stimulation in patients with a complete spinal cord injury (SCI). The spasticity in the lower limbs was assessed using the Modified Ashworth Scale and the pendulum test in seven SCI patients (grade A on the ASIA Impairment Scale) before (0−), immediately after (0+), and at 5 and 30 min after the real versus sham galvanic vestibular stimulation (15 s each, anode over the right mastoid). Overall, the changes in spasticity were not significantly different between the real and sham galvanic vestibular stimulation. However, the Modified Ashworth Scale and the pendulum test indicated a reduction in spasticity in two out of seven patients. The results suggest that galvanic vestibular stimulation may modify spasticity in some patients with complete SCI, presumably through the residual vestibulospinal influences. Future studies should determine clinical and neurophysiological profiles of responders versus nonresponders and optimize parameters of galvanic vestibular stimulation.

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