Injury to the spinal cord are very serious can could be even be deadly. If someone you know has had a spinal cord injury, medical attention should be sought immediately. Spinal cord injuries cause problems and can be temporary or even permanent. Here are some of the most common questions asked regarding spinal cord injuries.
- What are spinal cord injuries and what causes them?
Spinal cord injuries are damages caused to the spinal cord which affects functions in our body such as mobility and feeling. The spinal cord does not have to be broken in order to lose some of the body functions. The spinal cord can be intact yet loss of functions can occur. Around 50% of all spinal cord injuries are caused by vehicle accidents, 28% by sports injuries and 22% caused by falls. As such, the main cause of spinal cord injuries are by sudden impact and the damage will be felt immediately.
- What are the effects of spinal cord injuries?
Effects of spinal cord injuries are largely dependent on the type and seriousness of injury. Spinal cord injuries can be complete or incomplete. A complete injury is when there is totally NO function below the injured area. No sensation, feeling and movement can be felt or made and both sides of the body will be affected. An incomplete injury patient will still be able to carry out some function below the injured area such as moving a limb or have some sensation. Patients who have had an injury above the first thoracic vertebra will suffer paralysis of all four limbs. Patients whose injury is below the first thoracic spinal nerve will have full control of their upper limbs but suffer paralysis from the abdomen down.
- What is the prognosis?
Prognosis is all dependent on how serious the injury is and what exactly is damaged. Most people who have had spinal cord injuries are able to regain some functions within half a year. After that, the chances of recovery drop to a very low percentage. However, physical therapy may help to reduce long term disability.
- What treatments are available?
Although our body has an amazing self repairing mechanism, it doesn’t have the ability to heal the central nervous system. As such, there is no cure for spinal injuries. The only way is to limit cell death and any secondary damage to reduce loss of functions. Scientists are still trying to regenerate functions by growing nerves but are no easy task.
- Will I be wheelchair bound for the rest of my life?
The effects of spinal cord injuries are dependent on the severity of the injury. Sadly, most spinal cord injury patients require the use of a wheelchair to get around. Patients who suffered an injury to the top of their spinal cord will need to get around with the use of an electric powered wheelchair as they will lose control of all their limbs. Patients who suffer an injury below the top of the spinal cord are able to use a manual wheelchair as they still have control of their arms. Rehabilitation and physical therapy may help to reduce the dependent of a wheelchair but is largely dependent on individual.
It is of utmost importance for us to protect our spinal cord. When the spinal cord is injured, people can be permanently paralyzed and as of now, there is still no cure for spinal cord injuries.