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New technology allows the paralyzed to walk

Colorado construction workers know that their jobs come with certain risks, but they also know that their employers are supposed to be doing everything they can to keep them safe. When they don't and someone is injured in a Westminster construction accident, it is possible that a worker could sustain a severe injury to the spine and end up paralyzed.

For many people in Colorado, a diagnosis of paralysis may bring up images of wheelchairs and confinement. There is new technology, however, that is allowing people living with paralysis to walk again. An exoskeleton is a robotic frame that helps a patient's legs move and keeps him or her upright. There are two kinds of exoskeletons out there: the ReWalk and the Ekso. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration has only approved them for use at medical and rehabilitation facilities.

In a few years, however, the companies that manufacture these machines hope to have them ready for home use. For now, however, they are undergoing further testing to prove that there are real medical benefits for employees who have severe injuries to the spine.

There have been both physical and psychological benefits documented, one of the most obvious is that using an exoskeleton to walk is extremely beneficial for a paralyzed individual's mental health. Many people with paralysis had long given up hope of walking and this technology is giving them the chance to regain some of their old lives.

In addition, people who have used these exoskeletons in their rehabilitation have said that their muscles are now less spastic, meaning they don't have to deal with muscles spasms and tightness that many people who are paralyzed must deal with. It is also easier to empty one's bladder while standing.

It is true that spinal injuries are life-changing, but they don't have to be life-ending. Colorado workers who are injured on the job may have a few options open to them about how to move forward after a paralyzing injury.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Philadelphia is a hotbed of robotic frames that help paralysis victims walk," Tom Avril, May 13, 2012

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