A spinal cord injury can happen in an instant, whether it’s from a car accident, an athletic accident, or an unexpected fall. When this happens, the victim must learn how to live with the results, which can include partial or total paralysis of certain limbs and functions of their body. Spinal cord injuries are usually devastating, but there are some ways you can cope with your new reality so that you can still enjoy your life as much as possible. Here’s what you need to know about living with a spinal cord injury.
Types of Injuries
The area of the spinal cord where the injury occurred and the severity of damage are two factors that determine how someone’s life will be impacted.
It is possible for people to experience paralysis from their neck down when the injury occurs in the cervical region.
They may also experience paralysis from their chest down if it occurs in their thoracic region or from their waist down when it happens in their lumbar region.
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury vary from person to person.
Any of the following symptoms following an accident or injury should be evaluated by a physician:
- a severe headache, neck pain, or backache
- walking difficulty or weakness
- breathing difficulty
- an inability to balance and coordinate
- the extremities are numb or tingly
- control of the bladder or bowels is lost
Throughout their lives, people who have spinal cord injuries may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- loss of movement of certain parts of the body
- loss of feeling
- bladder control or loss of bowel
- pain from mild to severe
- contractions of the muscles
- atypical reflexes
- sexual dysfunction
- difficulty conceivingunsteadiness or difficulty maintaining balance while walking
- insomnia or coughing
- Based on the severity of the injury and the part of the spinal cord it affected, a person’s symptoms may vary
Injuries to the spinal cord can be caused by accidents, falls, or diseases. The area of the spinal cord where injury occurs and severity of damage determines how an injury affects a person. When you experience trauma to your spinal cord, cells may die or become damaged which can lead to neurological problems like paralysis or loss of sensation below your injury. A severe spinal cord injury may require surgery and rehabilitation while those who have milder injuries might only need medication and physical therapy.
- sports impact and collisions
- accidents involving cars
- when diving, you may hit your head
- gunshot wounds are injuries caused by violent acts
- a certain type of cancer
- infection types
- spina bifida, polio, and other diseases
Treatment and recovery
In most cases, spinal cord injuries can’t be reversed. However, there are treatments available to help you recover from your injury and regain function. Physical therapy can help you learn to use your body again and maintain strength.
Occupational therapy will teach you how to do daily tasks like dressing yourself or preparing food. Assistive devices like wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches may also be used to assist in mobility.
The best course of treatment depends on the severity of your injury; some injuries may heal over time while others will require ongoing care indefinitely.
For people who have complete or incomplete paraplegia, doctors might recommend surgery to remove pressure from the spinal cord so it has room to heal.
For people who have tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia), doctors might recommend surgery to relieve pressure on the lungs so they can breathe more easily.
Attending therapy and using prescription drugs might help a spinal cord injury survivor with their psychological well-being.
Also, it might be wise to get outside help by contacting friends and family and accepting day-to-day assistance as well.
For spinal cord injury survivors, their doctor is crucial and they need to go to them regularly. These professionals can manage complications, suggest equipment, and make a person’s quality of life better.
Falls and accidents are major causes of spinal cord injuries, but certain diseases can also cause spinal cord injury.
The severity of the damage done to the spinal cord depends on where it is located in your body. For example,
if you have an incomplete injury in your cervical spine, you might still be able to move your hands while not being able to move anything below your neck. On the other hand,
someone with a complete injury in their lumbar spine might not be able to move any part of their body below that area. When it comes to spinal cord injury, the type of treatment received varies depending on what kind of spinal cord injury one has.
If one had a mild or moderate injury, then they may need just physical therapy and surgery for recovery. However,
if there is severe damage to the spinal cord then they may need surgical intervention as well as intensive rehabilitation in order to recover some level of independence.
There are different treatments that may be recommended by doctors including steroid injections or surgery involving decompression, stabilization and fusion.
When Can I Return to Work?
For most people, determining when they can return to work largely depends on their occupation and whether or not it is physically demanding. For example, if you work in an office as an accountant, you would be able to return to work soon after your injury. But if you are a surgeon who performs intricate procedures, your recovery time will be longer and require more time away from work.