Background:

Respiratory complications are a leading cause of mortality post spinal cord injury (SCI). Along with breathing, respiratory muscles have a role in maintaining seated balance. Postinjury breathing influences respiratory muscle function. Preliminary evidence indicates a relation between respiratory muscle function and seated balance in people with chronic SCI dwelling in the community, but the relationship between balance and body habitus has not been explored.

Objectives:

To explore the relationships among inspiratory muscle function, functional seated balance (FSB), and body habitus in people with SCI.

Methods:

A convenience sample of inpatients with SCI (C5-T12) aged 18 to 60 years who were using a wheelchair was recruited from November 2022 to March 2023. Those with additional neurological disorders or respiratory support were excluded. Respiratory muscle function measures included maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP), sustained MIP (SMIP), and Fatigue Index Test (FIT). FSB was scored using the Function in Sitting Test (FIST). Body habitus was assessed using the axillary: umbilical (A:U) ratio. Spearman correlations explored the relationships.

Results:

Thirty-eight of 42 screened participants were eligible and participated (male, 32). Levels of injury ranged from C5 to T12. The mean (SD) age and duration of injury of the sample was 25.61 (6.68) years and 31.03 (28.69) months, respectively. SMIP and FIT correlated significantly with FSB (rs= .441, p = .01, and rs= .434, p = .006, respectively). A significant correlation between SMIP and A:U ratio (rs= -.330, p = .043) was observed.

Conclusion:

We observed a significant correlation between inspiratory pressure parameters and both functional seated balance and body habitus, adding to evidence on postural role of respiratory muscles.

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