One of the most devastating injuries resulting from a car accident is a spinal cord injury (SCI).
Your spinal cord is a vital part of your body, responsible for transmitting instructions from your brain to the rest of your body. Due to the complexity of the spinal cord, any damage to it often has severe effects that impact your ability to move and function.
Future outlook with an SCI depends on how serious the injury is and how promptly treatment is administered. Because of this, you must act quickly if you have any concerns about a potential SCI.
This starts with understanding what the signs of an SCI are. We’ll point out a few alarming indicators that you should seek immediate medical attention for below.
If you have any difficulty breathing, this could be a sign of an upper SCI.
The issue here is damage to your diaphragm. This affects your chest and abdominal muscles, which are crucial for creating the motions necessary for breathing.
An SCI makes it difficult to contract these muscles and allow oxygen into your lungs. This will result in shortness of breath, gasping, or intense pain while trying to breathe.
Making matters worse, these complications tend to persist while healing from the injury. This can make it difficult to sneeze and cough, which are important for clearing mucus from the body. Because of this, SCI victims tend to develop respiratory infections.
Any concerns with being unable to breathe are highly alarming and deserve immediate treatment. If paired with symptoms listed below, it may be an SCI.
Muscle weakness is another common symptom of an SCI.
With fairly minor spinal injuries, there will be a small amount of muscle weakness in the muscles below your injury. With more intense injuries, the weakness can escalate to loss of feeling and function.
When your spinal cord is damaged, the pathways between your brain and individual muscles become impaired. This makes it hard to send instructions to your muscles, which results in loss of function.
The flip side of this is that your muscles cannot communicate with your brain. As a result, you cannot feel the muscles that are impacted.
Anytime you suffer a blow to your spine and your muscles feel differently, you should get it checked out.
Extremity Numbness and Tingling
Another symptom to watch for is any odd sensations, numbness, or tingling in your extremities.
Similar to how your muscles can lose function and feeling from impacted communication pathways, so too can your extremities. This means your hands and feet.
With an SCI, your nerves become damaged and this can cause incorrect responses throughout your body. Tingling is one of these, especially if your hands or feet weren’t directly affected during your injury.
If too much damage occurs, then numbness may ensue. It will be difficult to feel your hands or feet and wiggle individual digits.
Considering this, you should never take any odd sensations in your hands or feet lightly. Even if you didn’t injure them, it could be a sign that your spine is damaged.
Lack of Bladder and Bowel Control
Finally, lacking bladder and bowel control may also indicate an SCI.
Your bladder and bowels are controlled by muscles. As the muscles below your spinal injury are often affected by an SCI, this means that your bladder and bowels also tend to get impacted.
As you might imagine, lacking control over these muscles means that you’ll likely end up soiling yourself. If you felt nothing as this happened, then you may have lost control as a result of a blow to your spine.
Unfortunately, this will continue to be a problem as you cope with the injury. It can also cause the reverse effect, meaning that you may struggle to relieve yourself.
As embarrassing as it may be, losing control of your bladder or bowels is a big reason to get medical help.
Spinal injuries are usually life-changing because of how important your spine is. Damage to the spine impacts communication between your body and brain, impacting sensations, and function. How impacted you are is determined by how serious your injury is.
You must take quick action if you suspect an SCI to get prompt treatment. Delaying may exacerbate your situation and cause irreversible damage.
A few signs of an SCI that you should watch for include breathing complications, muscle weakness, extremity tingling or numbness, and lack of bladder and bowel controls.
If you ever experience or notice any or multiple of the symptoms in yourself or someone else, immediately get medical assistance!