What is a spinal cord injury? Many people know that this type of injury can have some long term effects that can change the way a person lives. This article will look deeper into spinal cord injury, how it can occur, and what can be done to help cope with this injury.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
A spinal cord injury is when damage occurs to the spinal cord making everyday sensory and motor skills hindered to some extent. Depending on where the depending on where the damage is and how much the root nerves were affected the symptoms can vary from pain to paralysis. Your movement controlling ability will depend on the place of the injury and the severity of injury.
Spinal cord injuries can be complete or incomplete. Complete means the injured person has no feeling or control over movement below the injury. Incomplete is when the patient has some sensory and motor function below the spinal injury point.
What Causes a Spinal Cord Injury?
A traumatic spinal cord injury may result from a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, or crushes some vertebrae. It also may result from a gunshot or knife wound that penetrates and severs your spinal cord. Additional damage can occur over time because of bleeding, swelling, and fluid accumulation around your spinal cord. A non-traumatic spinal cord injury may be caused by arthritis, cancer, infections, or disk degeneration of the spine.
The most common causes of spinal cord injuries in the United States are:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Falls (the most common cause in elderly patients)
- Violent attacks (most often involving gunshot and knife wounds)
- Sports injuries (impact sports or diving in shallow water)
- Diseases (cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis)
Today there is no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord. Current research is working on new treatments, including medications to promote nerve cell regeneration. Urgent medical attention is critical to minimize the effects of any head or neck trauma. Doctors will focus on breathing, preventing shock, and immobilizing your neck to prevent further damage. Patients may be sedated so that you don’t move and sustain more damage while undergoing diagnostic tests.
Rehabilitation team members will begin to work with you while you are in the early stages of recovery. Therapists usually emphasize on the strengthening of existing muscle function through exercising. Helping you to tune fine motor skills and learn how to adapt to new methods of accomplishing everyday tasks. Education will be provided on the effects of your injury and you will be taught how to prevent complications. You will be introduced to new equipment that can help you function on your own.
Complications that can arise with a spinal cord injury include:
- Bladder control-Your brain may have difficulties controlling your bladder because your spinal cord has been injured. The changes in bladder control increase your risk of urinary tract infections, kidney infections, or bladder stones. Drinking plenty of clear fluids, especially water, may help to make sure your organs are functioning as they should.
- Bowel control-Control of your bowel movements is often altered. A high-fiber diet may help regulate your bowels.
- Skin sensation-You may have lost part or all skin sensations below your injury. Therefore, your skin can’t send a message to your brain when it’s injured by things such as prolonged pressure, heat or cold.
- Circulatory control-Circulatory problems ranging from low blood pressure to swelling of your extremities. These circulation changes also may increase your risk of developing blood clots.
- Respiratory system-Your injury may make it more difficult to breathe and cough. You may have an increased risk of pneumonia or other lung problems.
- Fitness and wellness-Loss of weight and muscle can be a common symptom after a spinal cord injury. Being limited in your mobility could place you at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
- Sexual health-Sexuality, fertility and sexual function may be affected by spinal cord injury. Men may notice changes in erection and ejaculation while women may notice changes in lubrication. Most women with a spinal cord injury can experience labor and have a normal delivery process.
An accident that results in paralysis is life changing. Suddenly having a disability can be frightening and confusing. Adapting is no easy task, but with the advances in stem cell research and nerve cell regeneration today there’s great hope for people with spinal cord injuries. As time passes you will be surprised with everything you can do. Contact our firm today to get started on your case.