In our previous post we focused on the most common questions about spinal cord injuries (SCI) due to accidents whether motorcycle, auto accident or fall. Today we will continue with the spinal cord injury topic, focusing on the long-term consequences of this serious injury.
Regardless of the type, injuries caused by an accident can be very inconvenient because they can interrupt your life in many ways both professionally and personally. Some injuries can take things even further when they cause permanent damage and lifelong disability.
Injuries that cause disability usually originate from more serious and extreme accidents and they usually affect the vulnerable parts of the human body such as your spine and spinal cord.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Our spine is made from several bone segments called the vertebrae which twist and flex, enabling us to walk upright. But that’s not the only role the spine plays in our life. It also splays a huge role in our nervous system because it houses (and protects) the spinal cord. The spinal cord is composed of a bundle of nerves that are encased inside our spine and extend from the top of our neck all the way to the lower end of our backs.
The role of the spinal cord is to transfer electrical signals and impulses from our brain to our arms and legs and other organs in our body. As with all nerves, the spinal cord is vulnerable to injuries too. But thanks to the vertebrae that encase the spinal cord, the majority of the injuries are absorbed by the bone structure, leaving the spinal cord intact and undamaged.
However, in cases of severe accidents, severe trauma can be inflicted on the spine and our vertebrae aren’t enough to stop the damage to the spinal cord.
Injuries inflicted to our spinal cord usually originate from severe trauma to our back and this trauma can either damage the spinal cord directly or damage the vertebrae and thus compromising the structural integrity of that section of our spine.
For example, if you fall on your back, you could fracture one or more of your vertebrae. The fracture could cause added pressure on the spinal cord and damage it. Or for example a sliver from the broken bone can cut into your cord, slipped disc can put pressure on the spinal cord and so on.
Damage Permanence Caused by Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can be very debilitating and the worst thing about it is that they tend to be permanent. The spine, just like our brain, is an extremely delicate and complex organ and there are still no ways to manipulate it or repair the tissue completely.
And even though there are treatment options, but they are very limited. Those that suffer spinal cord injury have to deal with the fact that they will potentially face lifelong disability with little to no prospect of getting better.
What disability is caused by spinal cord injuries?
The first and foremost problem caused by spinal cord injury is sensory issues. This can involve loss of senses in your extremities (legs and arms), an ice-like cold sensation across your fingers/toes or tingling. This is usually the first symptom to further loss of sensation which can affect the entire limbs. In some cases, the loss of sensation can happen faster and also lead to loss of control.
Paralysis due to spinal cord injury
This is probably the worst thing that could happen if you suffer a spinal cord injury. It is also the most common result of SCI and it’s permanent, in most cases. Paralysis can sometimes affect one limb (your arm or leg) or an entire part of your body e.g. from the waist down. This all depends where (what part of your spine) was injured and where the cord was damaged.
Loss of organ control
Aside from paralysis, spinal cord injuries can also cause loss of control over certain organs. One good example of this is when you suffer from incontinence (the inability to control urination or defecation). In more severe cases, organs such as the heart or lungs can also be affected by the spinal cord injury.