Gait Characteristics, Range of Motion, and Spasticity Changes in Response to Massage in a Person with Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury: Case Report

Christine Manella, PT, MT, Deborah Backus, PhD, PT


Purpose: Our study set out to measure the effect of a specific routine of massage on gait characteristics, range of motion, and spasticity in a person with incomplete spinal cord injury.

Methods: This descriptive, pre–post case study, conducted at the outpatient program of a rehabilitation facility, used neuromuscular techniques in massage for a 42-year-old man with incomplete chronic C5 spinal cord injury. The massage was applied to the iliopsoas, triceps surae, and hamstring muscle groups for 3 consecutive days.

Main Outcome Measures: Pre- and post-intervention testing included standard goniometric measurement of joint range of motion in the lower extremities, spasticity evaluation using the modified Ashworth scale, and evaluation of gait characteristics using GAITRite Walkway (CIR Systems, Havertown, PA, USA) pressure mapping for ambulation time, cadence, velocity, stride length, base of support, and single- and double-limb support.

Results: After the therapeutic intervention, the following gait changes were demonstrated: increase in velocity and cadence of gait, decrease in ambulation time, increase in stride length, and improvements in the percentages of the swing and stance phases of the gait cycle.

Conclusions: Specific application of massage therapy influenced gait speed, stride length, and swing and stance phase percentages in one person with incomplete spinal cord injury. Further study is warranted to determine the extent to which massage may affect musculoskeletal and neural impairments that limit gait in people with incomplete spinal cord injury, and the method or routine whose application will yield the most benefit.


Massage; spinal cord injury; GAITRite; gait characteristics

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International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
ISSN 1916-257X