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Intense Therapy for Motor Recovery (ITMR)

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital's Intense Therapy for Motor Recovery Program for patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI) extends therapy beyond traditional rehabilitation by using state-of-the-art equipment and therapy approaches based on current advances in science. High-intensity exercise and activity-based therapies are the primary focus of the program with a goal of motor recovery and functional improvements. The Intense Therapy Program provides hope and freedom by challenging the limits of what an individual may be able to accomplish.

Spinal Cord Injury therapy at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

Intense Therapy Explained

The Intense Therapy Program offers patients innovative therapy methods that are aimed at stimulating the damaged nervous system, and enhancing motor recovery following a spinal cord injury. The theory behind the therapeutic interventions is based on bombarding the central nervous system with movement-related sensory input from below the injury level. The sensory input is repeated over and over again, often thousands of repetitions during a session. The intention of the mass amounts of sensory input is to assist with the body’s own attempt to repair and re-organize the damaged nervous system.

Treatment and Services

After a comprehensive therapy evaluation and biofeedback evaluation, a spinal cord injury patient begins an individualized intense therapy program. The program requires a minimum of three hours of therapy per day, three to five times per week. Individual programs are designed and reviewed weekly by an interdisciplinary team, which is led by the spinal cord injury program medical director. The Intense Therapy team always takes into account an individual’s goals and needs when designing a treatment plan.

Whenever possible, exercises and activities are performed out of the wheelchair to stimulate the central nervous system. Common treatment interventions include the following approaches:

  • Body-weight supported treadmill training
  • Giger MD (a medical device and treatment approach)
  • Functional electrical stimulation
  • Core strengthening and weight-bearing activities
  • Resistance training and cardiovascular conditioning
  • Aquatic therapy

An Evidence-Based Program

Intense therapy is receiving substantial support from the spinal cord injury community, leaders, and researchers. When developing the program, the staff at Mary Free Bed found that research on intense therapy was compelling enough to support more aggressive efforts to recover any additional motor function. Many researchers have documented the advantages of using body-weight supported treadmill training, functional electrical stimulation, and high-intensity exercise as valuable treatment methods. Even for those who have been long paralyzed due to spinal cord injury, research shows that intensive training and exercise may enhance motor recovery or even restore motor function.

Who Can Participate

Mary Free Bed's therapists make every attempt to realistically advise patients on the likelihood of motor recovery. Acceptance into the specialized program is based on fulfilling the medical and functional admission criteria and on the results of a comprehensive therapy evaluation. Medical and functional criteria include:

  • Complete or incomplete spinal cord injury (candidates with incomplete lesions are more likely to achieve the desired results; candidates with complete lesions will be considered on an individual basis)
  • Three months post spinal cord injury
  • Successful completion of an acute inpatient rehabilitation program
  • Referral by an attending physician
  • Bone strength adequate to meet physical demands
  • Satisfactory results on therapy evaluations
  • Insurance coverage or self-payment
  • Individuals who are highly motivated and desire to push the limits of recovery

Patients only continue in intense therapy after three months if they experience significant functional gains that warrant additional time in the program. To move to the next phase of the program, there must be motor recovery or functional gains.

Other Intense Therapy Program Benefits

With a goal of optimizing motor recovery and functional abilities, the Intense Therapy Program is not a fitness program. However, improved fitness is an expected result. Patients have reported improvements in strength and are experiencing increased self-confidence and quality of life.

Therapists and patients also found that intense therapy reduces secondary complications, improves psychological adjustment, and enhances an individual's confidence to perform activities of daily living. The intense training and exercise not only has benefits for the cardiovascular system, but also may reduce spasticity and skin breakdown related to the injury.

Contact the Intense Therapy for Motor Recovery Program

616.493.9568 or 800.528.8989

© 2015 Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital., Grand Rapids, MI | 1.855.MFB.REHAB
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