A Spinal Cord Injury Is The Worst Possible Injury. Here’s Why
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
The spinal cord is a centre for coordinating reflexes which extends from the medulla oblongata to the lumbar region of the vertebral column. Any damage to the structure of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal cord can cause a temporary or permanent change in its function. Spinal cord injury is categorized into two types:
Complete – it means a total loss of sensation and muscle function. In this type of injury, the spinal nerves below the injury completely lose its communication with the brain.
Incomplete injury – It means that the spinal cord function is not completely shut-down and certaIn areas past the injury can still convey messages to certain parts of the brain.
What are the Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury?
Symptoms experienced from a spinal cord injury can vary in each individual. It also depends on the extent and degree of spinal injury. However, Spinal cord injuries of any type may result in one or more of the following symptoms:
Loss of muscle function, and sensation
Loss of bladder control
Exaggerated reflex activities
Additionally, the paralysis which may also occur due to spinal cord injury may be of two types
Also known as Tetraplegia, affects all the four limbs, trunk, and pelvic organ.
In this type part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs are paralysed.
What Makes Spinal Injuries so Dangerous?
The spinal cord acts as a messenger between the brain and the rest of the body. These coordinated reflexes between the brain and the spinal cord allow you to move, feel, and work in a coordinated way. An injury to the spinal cord may stop the flow of messages below the site of the injury. Also, the extent of the injury may add on to the symptoms of the injury, if it has occurred closer to the brain.
People who survive spinal cord injuries may pose various problems both physically and mentally.
Some of these problems are listed below:
Loss of Bladder Control – it is common in patients with a spinal injury which can increase the risk of urinary tract infections, or bladder and kidney stones.
Altered bowel control – Control of your bowel movements is often altered with spinal cord injury. However, it can be regulated by consuming a high-fibre diet and taking certain medications.
Skin sensation – Your touch sensation is lost and you may feel numb to heat, cold, and pressure sores.
Circulatory control – A spinal cord injury may cause swelling of your extremities, orthostatic hypotension, and may increase the risk of developing blood clots. Another potential and life-threatening form of a circulatory disorder include autonomic hyperreflexia characterized by a dangerous rise in blood pressure.
Respiratory Problems- The level of spinal cord injury determines your respiratory issues. If you have a cervical and thoracic spinal cord injury then you may be at higher risk of developing respiratory infections like pneumonia or other lung problems. The injury may also make it difficult for you to cough and breathe.
Muscle tone- People with spinal cord injuries may experience muscle spasms or flaccidity in the muscles.
Obesity and other diseases – Spinal cord injury leaves a person with limited mobility which place them at higher risk of obesity, cardiovascular disorders and diabetes.
Sexual Health- Sexual health is also altered where a man may notice changes in erection and ejaculation and a woman may find difficulties with lubrication and loss of libido. Fertility and sexual function may also be decreased with spinal cord injury.
Pain- Nerve pain along with other pains are found to be predominant in a person who has faced a spinal cord injury.
Depression and anxiety – In addition to physical injuries, a person with SCI may also experience psychological issues like depression and anxiety. Coping with injury and pain may cause depressive behaviour in the person.
Having a spinal cord injury may change your life and things forever. But you can still manage to live a rewarding life. There are many people with spinal cord injuries who are able to work, play sports, drive, and have relationships and families. There are numerous rehab teams that can provide support, training, and resources to help you move toward new goals.