Respiratory Muscle Training for Cervical Spinal Cord Injury (Review)

An Intervention Review by the Cochrane Injuries Group has been published on The Cochrane Library that looked at Respiratory Muscle Training for Cervical Spinal Cord Injury (SCI).

This systematic review was needed to determine the effectiveness of Respiratory Muscle Training (either inspiratory or expiratory muscle training) on pulmonary function, dyspnoea, respiratory complications, respiratory muscle strength, and quality of life for people with cervical spinal cord injury.

Intervention Review:

Respiratory Muscle Training for Cervical Spinal Cord Injury (Review)

David Berlowitz, Jeanette Tamplin
Editorial Group: Cochrane Injuries Group
Published Online: 19 JUL 2013

Authors' Conclusions - Implications for practice

The results of this review suggest that respiratory muscle training (RMT) can improve vital capacity and respiratory muscle strength (maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP) and maximal expiratory pressure (MEP)) for people with cervical spinal cord injury (SCI).

The Plain Language Summary -‘Training the muscles used for breathing after a spinal cord injury’:

“After an injury at a high point on the spinal cord (a cervical injury), the muscles responsible for breathing are paralysed or weakened. This weakness reduces the volume of the lungs (lung capacity), the ability to take a deep breath and cough, and puts them at greater risk of lung infection. Just like other muscles of the body, it is possible to train the breathing (respiratory) muscles to be stronger; however, it is not clear if such training is effective for people with a cervical spinal cord injury. This review compared any type of respiratory muscle training with standard care or sham treatments. We reviewed 11 studies (including 212 people with cervical spinal cord injury) and suggested that for people with cervical spinal cord injury there is a small beneficial effect of respiratory muscle training on lung volume and on the strength of the muscles used to take a breath in and to breathe air out and cough. No effect was seen on the maximum amount of air that can be pushed out in one breath, or shortness of breath. An insufficient number of studies had examined the effect of respiratory muscle training on the frequency of lung infections or quality of life, so we could not assess these outcomes in the review. We identified no adverse effects of training the breathing muscles for people with a cervical spinal cord injury.”

Read the full Intervention Review (pdf)

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