Having a spinal cord injury can be one of the worst things to happen to your body because of the possible changes in sensation, function, and mobility it can cause. Nobody wants to ever suffer a spinal cord injury, but there are still some people who may be unfortunate enough to go through this.
Much of the anguish of spinal cord victims is due to their loss of independence. Some may feel stigmatized by their condition since they may be treated differently by others.
If you now have a spinal cord injury, you may be wondering about the many changes in your body that you should expect. Here they are in more detail.
Types Of Spinal Cord Injuries
There are two main types of injuries to the spinal cord. These are:
- Paraplegia – Indicates loss of sensation, function, and mobility from the waist downward. A victim of paraplegia can still use their arms and hands.
- Quadriplegia – Loss of sensation, function, and mobility from the neck downwards. There’s no sensation, function or mobility at all in the arms or hands, plus the lower limbs and feet.
The common denominator between these two main kinds of spinal cord injury is that the victim will have to be assisted to some extent to be able to survive. With both paraplegia and quadriplegia, the victim may need specialist seating to be able to sit up for long periods of time. A victim of paraplegia may be able to do some tasks while seated, but a quadriplegia victim, on the other hand, is completely dependent on a caregiver for all tasks.
Severity Of Spinal Cord Injury
The severity of each spinal cord injury will dictate to what extent the patient will lose sensation, function or mobility. This means the injury is either ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete.’
With the complete type of injury, there is total loss of sensation, function or mobility below the point of injury to the spinal cord. This is called ‘below’ because the orientation for diagnosing a spinal cord injury is that the patient is viewed in a standing position.
With an incomplete type of injury, there’s still some sensation, function or mobility below the point of injury to the spinal cord. So, this varies from patient to patient. Some patients may have only mild loss of sensation, function or mobility, but others may have more inability to sense, move or function their affected body parts.
Side Effects Of Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury may also affect other body parts aside from the arms, hands, legs, and feet in different ways. These are as follows:
- Weakness and Complete Loss of Muscle Function: A patient with a spinal cord injury will experience a certain degree of weakness and loss of muscle function starting from the point in the spine that was damaged. There may also be a loss of sensation. You might notice that the muscles themselves can be affected by the damage so that each muscle atrophies.
- Involuntary Movement Of Specific Body Parts: Some body parts can experience some involuntary movement. For example, the ability to control bowel movement or the urge to urinate could be affected. This means that the patient may suddenly lose control of their bowels or their bladder.
- Loss Of Normal Sexual Function: The parts of the body that are usually related to sexual function could malfunction so that sexual sensitivity and even fertility could decline.
- Loss Of Control Of Respiratory Functions: If the trunk is affected by the spinal cord injury, this may affect the lungs of the patient. The patient may be unable to cough up or expel mucous from their lungs. Even breathing can be compromised in some cases.
Technology To Support Spinal Cord Injury Patients
Though the plight of some spinal cord injury patients can be tragic, the good news is that there are certain forms of technology that benefit spinal cord injury patients. Here are some of those technological systems:
- Wheelchairs: This is the most basic of technology nowadays but commonly used since it is simple yet functional. Since paraplegics are usually able to sit up without assistance, a wheelchair can be of big help. For quadriplegics, a wheelchair can be fitted with straps so they won’t slump forward and can comfortably look around them.
- Automated Door Openers: This is usually complementary to wheelchair-bound patients so they can use a functional part of their body such as their mouth or the tips of their fingers to make the remote technology work. This can probably be best used by paraplegics since they may still have use of their hands, which can give more independence to the patient. Quadriplegics may gain some independence as well with automated door openers so they can roam a facility without needing assistance to open doors for them.
- Cellular Phones: Just like with automated door openers, the technology can be used by patients who are unable to leave their wheelchairs. Paraplegics can definitely make use of cell phones. Some quadriplegics can also adapt to cell phones by using voice technology to craft messages.
Since there’s research being done by many scientists all over the world in relation to finding solutions to the problems of spinal cord injury victims, technology like these are very useful and much appreciated by the victims themselves.
Though spinal injuries can result from sudden and forceful trauma to the spinal cord and related nerves, there are other possible causes as well. One is illness or disease (such as cancer and arthritis) that can affect the spinal cord area. There might also be inflammation around the spinal cord due to such illness or disease.
The good news is that medical research in many countries is being done to attempt to find proper and long-term treatments for spinal cord injury. This may mean that, someday, there may be advances in medical research to relieve or even eliminate the effects of spinal cord injuries permanently. The advancement of technology nowadays also gives hope to spinal cord injury patients as they can use these gadgets to assist them with some activities, which gives them a measure of independence despite their condition.