Effects of Electrical Stimulation and Vitamin D Supplementation on Bone Health Following Spinal Cord Injury.

  • End date
    Jun 30, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    VA Office of Research and Development
Updated on 16 January 2022
electrical stimulation
spinal cord
spinal cord disorder
Accepts healthy volunteers


Neurogenic osteoporosis is a common complication of spinal cord injury (SCI) that is associated with low impact bone fractures. It is concerning that more than 46,000 Veterans affected with SCI and are at risk of osteoporosis and possible low impact fractures. About fifty percent of all individuals with SCI will develop low impact fracture in their life time. The management of osteoporosis-related fractures can impose substantial economic burden on the health care system, the individual and the families. Previous studies did not succeed in reversing the process of bone loss after SCI. In the present pilot study, we will evaluate the effect of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation Resistance Training in combination with oral Vitamin D supplementation, on bone quality in Veterans with chronic SCI, using a randomized experimental design.


Neurogenic osteoporosis is a devastating problem that is likely to impact 46,000 Veterans with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI). It is typically associated with low impact fractures of long bones and other medical comorbidities. It is estimated that approximately fifty percent of all individuals with SCI will develop low impact fracture during their lifetime. The management of osteoporosis related fractures can impose substantial economic burden on the health care system, individuals with SCI and their families. Advancement in medical research clearly indicated that neurogenic osteoporosis is linked to reduced loading and Vitamin D (Vit D) deficiency. Our pilot work indicated that a simple rehabilitation paradigm targeting towards evoking skeletal muscle hypertrophy may attenuate deterioration in trabecular bone parameters after SCI. Evoked resistance training (RT) using surface neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) has been shown as a successful and feasible home-based approach to load skeletal muscles after SCI. Our earlier results may imply long-term compliance and adherence if successfully applied in conjunction with a telehealth approach. In the present study, we propose a simple home-based approach of using NMES RT in conjunction with oral Vit D supplementation on trabecular bone quality in 20 Veterans with chronic SCI. Data will include measurements of trabecular bone quality as determined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and bone biomarkers associated with the process of bone remodeling.

Twenty participants with chronic (> 1-year post-injury) motor complete (AIS A and B) SCI (18 to 65 years of age) will be randomly assigned into either NMES RT plus 2000IU of Vit D (10 participants) or passive movement plus 2000IU Vit D (10 participants) to participate in a repeated measure design trial for 9 months. The NMES RT plus Vit D will undergo 4.5 months of open kinematic chain resistance training followed by 4.5 months of closed kinematic chain using simple rowing approach. This pilot work will have two main specific aims. Aim 1. To determine the impact of home-based NMES RT protocol plus oral Vit D supplementation compared to passive movement plus oral Vit D on bone microarchitectural properties. Aim 2. To determine the impact of home-based NMES RT protocol plus oral Vit D compared to passive movement and Vit D supplementation on biomarkers of bone formation and bone resorption.

Condition Spinal Cord Injury
Treatment Vitamin D, NMES, Passive movement
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05008484
SponsorVA Office of Research and Development
Last Modified on16 January 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

To be included, participants will have to
Be 18-65 years of age
Have history of traumatic SCI ( 1-year) with NLI of C8-T10 and AIS A or B (confirmed by AIS examination performed by PI or a qualified Provider
Have a caregiver who is available and willing to be trained to apply intervention protocol in the home (placing weights and positioning the Veteran) throughout study duration
Be a wheelchair user for primary mode of mobility
Have Knee extensors that must respond to standard surface electrical stimulation procedures (stimulation frequency procedures, 30 Hz; pulse duration:1 ms and amplitude of the current of less than200 mA)
Be able to receive written clearance from their medical Providers to ensure safety of participants
Be a Veteran (male or female), however, the Department of Veteran Affairs has limited number of female Veterans, especially those with motor complete injury at level C8-T10 (currently, there are only 3 female Veterans with the target NLI in our SCI registry). Hence, inclusion of women Veterans may be challenging due to this disparity in the SCI population. If we fail to recruit 20 Veterans, we may seek an IRB approval to recruit non-Veterans to meet our target sample size
Have normal ECG
Commit to undergo 9 months of trial; 4.5 months of open-kinematic chain resistance training followed by 4.5 months of closed-kinematic chain using simple rowing approach \+ Vit. D supplementation (Experimental group) or 9 months of passive movement +Vit D supplementation (control group)

Exclusion Criteria

Potential participants will be excluded if they exhibit any of the following
Neurological injury other than SCI
Older than 65 years of age as they may likely have considerable amount of bone loss at that age
Have severe osteoporosis because loading porous/fragile bone by electrical stimulation may result in bone fracture
Those classified as AIS C & D, as they may already be engaging in weight bearing activities that may confound the results of this trial
Unhealed or unstable fractures in either lower or upper extremities
Severe scoliosis, deformities in the hip, knee, or ankles OR impaired range-of-motion, as these could be a barrier to safe positioning on the rowing machine, and on MRI or DXA tables
No caregiver or family member/significant other, willing to help with placing weights and positioning participants' lower extremities on the rowing machine
Untreated or uncontrolled hypertension (systolic blood pressure (BP) > 140 mmHg; diastolic BP > 90 mmHg), and/or sudden hypotension upon transferring from bed to wheelchair, characterized by a drop in BP by 20 mmHg (especially in persons with tetraplegia) or heart rate > 100 beats per minute
Anti-coagulation or anti-platelet therapy (including aspirin)
Implanted pacemakers, implanted defibrillator devices or any metallic implants including knee or hip implants
Presence of bullets in vertebral column or shrapnel anywhere in the body that may interfere with MRI procedure
Other medical conditions including cardiovascular disease, uncontrolled type II DM, active deep vein thrombosis (DVT), uncontrolled autonomic dysreflexia, use of insulin for DM management, pressures injuries of stage 3 or higher, or active urinary tract infection
Severe hypercalcemia (serum calcium > 16mg/dl), stage III-V kidney disease, post-menopausal or estrogen dependent female, and men undergoing anti-androgen therapy or are post orchiectomy
DXA total body T-score less than -2.5. Total hip BMD T-scores < -3.5 and knee BMD scores of less than 0.6 g/cm2
Untreatable severe spasticity bearing on potential participants' activities of daily living, such as transfers from bed to wheelchair or maintaining position in wheelchair
Any psychiatric illness confounding judgment or cognitive impairment in participant or caregiver who is expected to help participant in the trial
Those with prosthetic lower limbs
Any condition that, in the judgment of the PI or other medical Providers, preclude safe participation in the study and/or has the potential to expose/increase participant's risk of infection
Unable to tolerate increasing either electrical stimulation current or weights to the lower legs for any reason
Clear my responses

How to participate?

Step 1 Connect with a study center
What happens next?
  • You can expect the study team to contact you via email or phone in the next few days.
  • Sign up as volunteer to help accelerate the development of new treatments and to get notified about similar trials.

You are contacting

Investigator Avatar

Primary Contact



Additional screening procedures may be conducted by the study team before you can be confirmed eligible to participate.

Learn more

If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

Learn more

Complete your scheduled study participation activities and then you are done. You may receive summary of study results if provided by the sponsor.

Learn more

Similar trials to consider


Browse trials for

Not finding what you're looking for?

Every year hundreds of thousands of volunteers step forward to participate in research. Sign up as a volunteer and receive email notifications when clinical trials are posted in the medical category of interest to you.

Sign up as volunteer

user name

Added by • 



Reply by • Private

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur, adipisicing elit. Ipsa vel nobis alias. Quae eveniet velit voluptate quo doloribus maxime et dicta in sequi, corporis quod. Ea, dolor eius? Dolore, vel!

  The passcode will expire in None.

No annotations made yet

Add a private note
  • abc Select a piece of text from the left.
  • Add notes visible only to you.
  • Send it to people through a passcode protected link.
Add a private note