Spinal Cord Injury Guide
As estimated by the national spinal cord injury association, around 450,000 people in the United States are living with spinal cord injuries. It is one of the most common types of injury experienced by most people in the country. A spinal cord injury may be of different types and severity. And depending on the severity of the injury, you might lose mobility or function of different parts of your body. Whether you have a minor spine problem or a severe one, proper medical treatment and guidance can help you get back on track. The treatments for spinal cord injury range from physical therapy to medication, tap working of nerves, or surgery.
What is spinal cord injury?
Before understanding spinal cord injury let’s understand what a spinal cord is. In easy words, The spinal cord connects your brain with the rest of the body. You may also say that the spinal cord acts as a medium to transfer messages between your brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is surrounded by layers of tissue and spinal bones that protect the spinal cord.
Any sudden or traumatic blow to the spinal bones is the major cause of most spinal cord injuries. The broken bones then split or completely sever the spinal cord and its nerves.
How does a spinal cord injury affect the body?
As already stated, the spinal cord acts as a messenger between your brain and body. So, when the spinal cord is injured or damaged, it leaves a direct impact on the body. The different parts of the body lose their essential functions as the nerves can’t communicate with the brain properly. Here is a list of the effects a damaged spinal cord can have on your body:
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Breathing issues
- Reduced metabolism (the process of converting food into energy)
- Heart rate
- Muscle movement
Types of spinal cord injury
Spinal cord injury can be of two types: partial and complete.A complete spinal cord injury occurs when your spinal cord is severely damaged leading to a complete loss of function in one part of the body. A complete injury may either cause paralysis to all four limbs or half of the body.
An incomplete or partial paralysis is when one or both sides of the body can still function to some extent. This is when certain pathways are still open for communication between your brain and body.
The common symptoms of a spinal cord injury
The symptoms of a spinal cord injury largely depend on the type and location of the damage. It’s necessary to consult a physician immediately and take the necessary medications if you notice any of the following symptoms after a recent injury.
- Difficulty in breathing
- Loss of bowel control
- Reduced sensation or tingling in the arms, fingers, legs, and feet
- Severe back or neck pain
- Unusual lumps along the spine or head
- Weakness in arms and legs
Testing and diagnosis of a spinal cord injury
A medical practitioner will first check your breathing and heart rate and make sure if the spinal cord injury has affected it. Next, they will follow some steps to check if all your nerves are working well. Here are some of the checks that the healthcare provider conducts:
- Sensory function: If you can feel touch and sensation
- Motor function: If your motor function is well and you could move all your body parts
- A CT scan to see if you have a broken bone or blood clot
- MRI to check the soft tissues and spinal cord
- X-Ray to check broken and dislocated bones
The bottom line
Whether minor or severe, a spinal cord injury may have a severe impact on your life. You must take all the necessary medical help and have a good support system to help you deal with the injury. Work together to achieve better health.
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