As identified in The Dardzinski Method, there are Five Phases of Recovery that every client goes through after sustaining a spinal cord injury. The rate at which each client progresses is different but similar. At Project Walk, there are clients in every phase of recovery, and many of them overlap into various phases as their body progresses.
Phases I and II typically go together as client begins their recovery program. The goal of Phase I is to act as the clients’ nervous system to stimulate responses and excite it. This
is typically done through active assisted exercises or “Active Nervous System Recruitment” (ANSR). In Phase II we are building on nervous pathways that are engaged during ANSR. We do this through the use of load bearing activities. Reactivation or re-organization is the process of the nervous system bypassing the injury site and re-wiring itself to perform the job it was designed to do. These are the most difficult stages of the program and can be the longest in the road to recovery. Reactivation or reorganization of the nervous system is what seems to cause the most controversy regarding The Dardzinski Method.
The goal in Phase III is to initiate muscle contractions through positional movement or stimulation. This is where recovery really starts to move away from traditional occupational practices. It is our belief that the nervous system is trying to connect the way it did before the spinal cord injury, but without the proper external stimulation to re-teach it, the result is spasm and tone. Clients will be more physically tired after workouts and their nervous system will not recover as fast as it did during Phases I and II. The Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Specialists task is to help clients do the work, not to do the work for them.
The goal here is to improve coordinated movement through all planes of movement and motion. Specialists may refer to this as the transition phase. This is because the client is now between worlds; they have the ability to move and control their legs and arms, but do not have the strength or coordination to walk without aids. The evolution from Phase III to Phase IV can be long and arduous and quite frustrating. And, not every person will make the transition.
The objective of Phase V is to provide advanced functional gait training for clients who are moving their legs or are able to walk with or without adaptive aids. The training program in Phase V is tailored to meet each client’s individual goals. While one person may want to get upright and walk, another may want to go beyond that and surf or snowboard.