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Spinal cord injury - Paraplegics

Types of spinal cord injuries

There are many different types of spinal cord injuries. Usually, doctors will categorize them into complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries.

A complete injury is one in which a person loses all feeling and control of the body below the spinal cord injury.

A person with an incomplete spinal cord injury may still have some feeling in or control of the affected areas.

 

The location of the injury also determines its type. There are four sections of the spinal cord:

● cervical spine (vertebrae C1 through C7, which contain a total of eight cervical nerve roots)

● thoracic spine (vertebrae T1 through T12)

● lumbar spine (vertebrae L1 through L5)

● sacral spine (vertebrae S1 through S5)

 

Each of the four sections controls different parts of the body. In most cases, a person will lose some or all control and feeling in the limbs that are below the spinal cord injury.

Learn more about spinal cord anatomy here.

 Cervical spinal injury

The top portion of the spine, which includes the vertebrae in the neck, is the cervical spine. As cervical spine injuries are closest to the brain and may affect the largest portion of the body, they tend to be the most severe type.

An injury to the cervical spine often causes tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, which is full or partial paralysis of the four limbs and the torso.

 Thoracic spinal injury

The thoracic spine includes the upper and middle part of the back.

A thoracic spine injury often affects the muscles in the abdomen, legs, and lower back. People with a thoracic spine injury may have paraplegia, which means that they have paralysis in parts of the trunk and legs. A person with paraplegia can still use their arms and hands.

 Lumbar spinal injury

The lumbar spine is the lowest major portion of the spine. The vertebrae in this section are larger because they support more weight than those in other areas of the spine.

A person with a lumbar spine injury may lose some function in the hips and legs, but they usually retain control of their upper body. Some people with a lumbar spine injury may be able to walk with braces or use a wheelchair.

Complications

A spinal cord injury can cause complications and changes to daily functioning. These may include:

● Loss of bladder control, bowel control, or both: People with spinal cord injuries may need to learn how to empty their bladder and bowels when they cannot feel the urge to go.

● Loss of muscle tone: If a person is unable to move and use their arms or legs, the muscles may shrink (atrophy) and become weak. The person’s physical fitness may also decrease.

● Muscle spasms: Sometimes, a spinal cord injury can cause muscles to contract, leading to uncontrolled movements and spasticity.

● Nerve pain: Research suggests that more than two-thirds of people who have spinal cord injuries experience long-term nerve pain. The pain may occur in parts of the body that still have feeling, or they may affect areas that have little to no sensation.

● Skin sores and injuries: If a person cannot feel certain parts of their body, they may not be aware of any sores, cuts, or burns that they sustain in this area. They will need to do frequent skin and nail checks to look for injuries to help prevent infections and other complications.

● Lung problems: If a person cannot cough or breathe well after a spinal cord injury, they may not be able to clear their lungs well. This difficulty puts them at a higher risk of getting pneumonia.

● Blood clots: Some people may have blood pressure that is too low, which raises the risk of blood clots and swelling.

● Stroke and cardiac arrest: With some spinal cord injuries, there is a risk of the blood pressure suddenly going dangerously high. Doctors refer to this as autonomic dysreflexia, and it can lead to seizures, heart attack, and stroke.

● Risk of obesity: If a person cannot walk or move as they once did, they may spend more time being sedentary. This lifestyle change can lead to a person having overweight or obesity and developing associated conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

● Changes in sexual function: Spinal cord injuries can reduce or remove the ability to obtain an erection or become sexually aroused. They can also make it difficult or impossible to have an orgasm.

● Infertility: Women with spinal cord injuries may have difficulty getting pregnant, and these injuries can sometimes prevent ejaculation in males.

● Mental health conditions: A spinal cord injury can cause a decline in mental health. Study findingsTrusted Source suggest that depression is “highly prevalent” among people who have a spinal cord injury.

 

A spinal cord injury can cause challenging, lifelong complications. People can manage many of these complications with the help of medical providers, including rehabilitation therapists and doctors.

Treatment and recovery

Treatment and recovery time depend on the type of spinal cord injury that a person sustains. A medical team will assess the person’s case and develop a suitable treatment plan and recovery time frame. They will take into account the type and extent of the injury to manage and prevent complications.

Surgery is a standard treatment for spinal cord injuries. Usually, surgery is the first response Trusted Source where there is a risk of further damage. The type of surgery will depend on the injury.

In many cases, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and rehabilitation play an essential role in improving and maintaining long-term quality of life. For some people, this will involve ongoing therapy sessions to maintain physical strength and mobility.

Counseling and psychotherapy may help with emotional trauma after sustaining a spinal cord injury. Reaching out to friends and family for emotional support and day-to-day help will also make recovery easier.

People who have spinal cord injuries should see their doctors and medical providers regularly. These professionals can help manage complications, recommend adaptive equipment, and improve a person’s quality of life.

Surgery is a standard treatment for spinal cord injuries. Usually, surgery is the first response Trusted Source where there is a risk of further damage. The type of surgery will depend on the injury.

Summary

Paraplegia severely affects mobility in the lower half of the body. It can be the result of a chronic condition or an accident that causes damage to the brain or spinal cord.

People with paraplegia may experience complications over time, such as spasticity. They usually require daily care and treatment on a long-term basis.

There is currently no cure for paraplegia. However, there are a variety of long-term treatment options available, including physical therapy, medications, and surgery. These may help people regain partial control over the affected areas.

Our Approach : 

Rehabilitation:

Rehabilitation is an essential part of the recovery process.

Physical therapy focuses on regaining muscle function and strength through repetitive movements. Physical therapists can recommend specific exercises and strategies for staying physically active.

Speech therapy can help people regain or maintain their ability to speak, while occupational therapy involves learning to balance self-care and work

Most people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) want to work yet need support, training and vocational rehabilitation services to help them obtain and keep a job. These sources of support may help to overcome many barriers that are outside the individual’s control, such as financial and health care issues, accessibility, and employer attitudes.

Work is important to people not only because they can earn an income and receive health insurance and other benefits, but also because it gives them opportunities to interact with others and improved self-esteem and overall life satisfaction. And although there is no cause-effect relationship, there are consistent findings in the research that people who are employed after SCI live longer and report higher satisfaction with life and better health than people who are not working.

Although individuals with SCI can and do go on to have active work lives and successful careers, they have more barriers to overcome than those without disabilities.  Rehabilitation services exist to help people with disabilities overcome these barriers.

The case for volunteering

If paid employment is not possible, consider getting involved in a volunteer activity. Not only can volunteering provide enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment, it can give you the skills, confidence and professional contacts that might eventually lead to paid employment some day.

Our Impact:

We’ve been able to make a positive impact on the lives of so many PWD people, all thanks to your unwavering support.

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