Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis
Spinal cord injuries are complex and often carry devastating consequences. The catastrophic damage is limited not just to the victim’s body, but to every other aspect of their life. The financial toll on the family can result in bankruptcy.
According to the National Highway Safety Council, each year in the United States, over 13,000 people become paraplegics as the result of suffering spinal cord injury. The age range most commonly stricken with permanent paralysis is from age 30 to 40. Nearly half of all spinal cord injuries are the result of vehicle collisions; about a quarter are the result of falls.
It is believed that many spinal cord injuries are the result of diving into shallow water and sports. Actually, fewer than 10% of such injuries result from these activities.
The spinal cord is one of the most complicated and involved organs in the body. The nervous system is comprised of miles of nerves, which transmit electronic messages from the brain to all other regions of the body.
The treating medical professionals initially determine whether there has been a complete severing of the cord, or whether the patient has been partially injured with an incomplete severing. Those in the latter group may experience a partial recovery, although many victims will forever be confined to a wheelchair.
Despite the location of the damage site, many of the same symptoms can be expected. These include sensory deficit, limited function or complete paralysis, breathing problems and spasticity. Numbness can be accompanied with alternating pain as well. Medical personnel will carefully monitor for evidence of fluid accumulation, swelling, bleeding and inflammation of surrounding nerve groups.
Cervical and Thoracic Cord Damage
Paralysis, known also as paraplegia, occurs when the lower half of the body, including the legs, is rendered non-functional.
If the spinal cord injury has occurred in the neck region, the legs still can be as affected as the arms. At the thoracic or chest level, the symptoms are usually experienced in the legs. Whatever level is affected, the entire body will be compromised, because the spinal cord involves the entire nervous system in all its massive complexity.
Usually the loss of reflexes and movement occurs immediately after the accident. If there is going to be any degree of recovery, it will most likely take place within the first 6 months after the injury.
Injuries of this nature always affect the victim in multiple ways. The entirety of a person’s life is overwhelmingly impacted, as well as that of their family members. It is this extraordinary scope of devastation that makes these injuries so difficult.
Every aspect of life must be re-considered and re-calibrated. If the victim’s site of trauma is the cervical area, there is a danger of quadriplegia, which involves all limbs.
Whether there is partial or complete paralysis, many other parts of the body will likely be very affected. Internal organs can be impacted and carry with them medical treatment that complicates the overall treatment plan. Loss of control over the bowels and bladder is commonly associated with paralysis injuries.
With extensive use of wheelchairs and beds, confinement difficulties often manifest. These can include pneumonia, thrombosis, pressure sores, sexual dysfunction and many others.
Management of the paralysis patient nearly always involves extensive physical and occupational therapeutic modalities. These are nearly always in conjunction with psychological treatment. The orchestration of rehabilitation work must be done expertly in order to derive the maximum benefits, especially during the early stages.