Spinal Cord Injury

spinal cord injury (SCI) is mutilation to the spinal cord that causes reversible or irreversible changes in its function. Symptoms may include loss of muscle function, sensation, or autonomic function in the parts of the body supplied by the spinal cord below the level of the injury.

The spinal cord is a long, fragile tube-like structure that extends from the base of the brain to near the waist.  The spinal cord consists of nerves that carry incoming and outgoing messages between the brain and the rest of the body.  It is also the center for reflexes, such as the knee jerk reflex.  Many of the bundles of nerve fibers that make up the spinal cord contain upper motor neurons, whereas spinal nerves that branch off the spinal cord at regular intervals in the neck and back contain lower motor neurons.

Damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal (cauda equina) gives rise to spinal cord injury.  A spinal cord injury leads to permanent changes in strength, sensation and other function of the body below the site of the injury.  A spinal canal injury alters almost every aspect of life.  You can feel the consequences of the injury mentally, emotionally and socially. Treatment and rehabilitation help the people affected with spinal cord injury to lead almost-normal, productive, independent lives.

The following factors decide your ability to control your hands and feet after a spinal cord injury:

  • The exact location of the injury along the spinal cord
  • The severity of the injury. It is often calculated in terms of “completeness”

How are spinal cord injuries classified?

Spinal cord injuries are classified into complete spinal cord injury and incomplete spinal cord injury.  Point to be kept in mind is, two people might have sustained the same level and type of spinal cord injury, but the similarities usually end there.  Each person may have different functional capabilities, depending on the degree of injury.  Spinal cord injuries are extremely complex and it usually demands the intensive treatment of a team of medical professionals to help the person cope with the injury, both on the physical and emotional levels.

Complete spinal cord injury:

Complete spinal cord injury causes total loss of bodily movements.  There is absolutely no sensation and no ability for movement (motor function) below the level of the injury.  About 50% of all spinal cord injuries are complete.  In complete spinal cord injury, both sides of the body are severely affected.  Ironically, even with a complete spinal cord injury, the spinal cord is rarely cut or transected.  More often that not, loss of function is on account of contusion or bruise to the spinal cord or reduced supply of blood to the injured part of the spinal cord.

Incomplete spinal cord injury:

If you have some sensation and motor movements below the affected site, then it is incomplete injury.  As a result, some function remains below the level of the injury.  Here patients may be able to move one arm or leg than the other.  It should be noted that there are varying levels of incomplete injury.

Tetraplegia: Also referred to as quadriplegia. Your arms, hands, trunk, legs, pelvic organs are all impaired on account of spinal cord injury.
Paraplegia: This affects all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs

Paralysis is the consequence of a spinal cord injury.  It could be tetraplegia or paraplegia

Your medical team will conduct a series of tests to determine the intensity and completeness of the injury.  Following are the signs and symptoms that one needs to look out for in case of a spinal cord injury.

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss or altered sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold and touch
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
  • Changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity and fertility
  • Pain or an intense stinging sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers in your spinal cord
  • Difficulty breathing, coughing or clearing secretions from your lungs

Some spinal cord injury facts:

  • The incidence of spinal cord injury is highest among persons age 16-30
  • Males represent 81% percent of all reported spinal cord injuries and 89% percent of all sports-related spinal cord injury.

Watch out these signs and symptoms:

Keep an eye out on these signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury post an accident:

  • Extreme back pain or pressure in your neck, head or back
  • Weakness, incoordination or paralysis in any part of your body
  • Numbness, tingling or loss of sensation in your hands, fingers, feet or toes
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Impaired breathing after injury
  • An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back

It’s time to see a doctor because…

  • A serious spinal injury is not very obvious in most cases. If goes unnoticed, it may worsen the condition
  • The time between the injury and the treatment is crucial in determining the extent and severity of the complications

Anyone who has had a significant trauma to the head and neck needs immediate medical attention to rule out the possibility of a spinal cord injury.

Common causes of spinal cord injuries:

Road traffic accidents: RTA are the leading cause of spinal cord injury worldwide
Falls: Spinal injury after 65 is primarily because of falls. About 15% of the total spinal cord injuries is on account of falls
Acts of violence: Violent encounters is the root cause of about 12% of spinal cord injuries
Sport and recreation injuries: Impacts sports and diving account for 10% of overall spinal cord injuries
Alcohol: Alcohol is the culprit in one out of four spinal cord injuries
Diseases: Spinal cord injuries can come about because of cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis or inflammation of the spinal cord.

Spinal Cord Injury – FAQs

Will I ever walk again?

Yes you will definitely be able to walk based your clinical state.  The lower your injury /and the more sensation/movement you have, the greater your chances are of regaining mobility.

Will I regain control of my bladder or bowels?

Yes, depending on the level of injury and it may take some time.

What does your program consist of?

Plexus Regenerative Rehabilitation Program consists of stem cell therapy, stem cell nutritive therapy, various oral and intravenous medications and a holistic rehabilitation program comprising of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, acupuncture, therapeutic massages etc

Glimpses of Regenerative Rehabilitation Program at Plexus

A Case Study…

An art teacher’s dream

Ms. A is a 46 year old art teacher from Maldives. On 1st April, 2017 a trivial fall that happened in her response to a “cockroach” lead to a series of life changing events. She suffered from a high level spinal cord injury that rendered her paralyzed and helpless for a lifetime.  She suffered from C5-6 spinal cord injury. She underwent a surgery that fixed the vertebral fracture at Maldives itself and started receiving rehabilitative treatment. By virtue of the nature of the injury she was able to raise her arms slightly and bend elbows and had total paralysis of wrists, hands, trunk and legs. She was able to speak but breathing was weakened. She needed assistance with all activities of daily living like brushing, bathing, dressing, eating etc.

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