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Understand What Spinal Cord Injuries Are All About

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is when the spinal cord gets damaged. It is a physical trauma that can significantly impact many aspects of daily life.

The spinal cord is responsible for sending messages from the brain to the different parts of the body and vice versa. SCI may cause the loss of some important functions because the nerves cannot communicate with the brain.

SCI is caused mainly by motor vehicle accidents, diving accidents, falls, gunshot wounds, sports injuries, trampoline accidents, surgical complications, and infections that form an abscess in the spinal cord.

There are two types of spinal cord injuries:

  1. Complete SCI – is the type that causes permanent damage to the affected area of the spinal cord. Complete SCI can result in paraplegia or tetraplegia.
  2. Incomplete SCI – means that the spinal cord is partially damaged. The amount of feeling and the ability to move depends upon the injured area of the spine and how severe the injury is.

Levels of SCI

The spinal cord has 4 sections that dictate the level of the spinal cord injury. These sections are the cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. Each of these sections protects a group of nerves that control the body. The severity of the SCI depends on what section of the spine has been damaged.

* Cervical spinal cord injury. It affects the head and neck regions and is the most severe SCI level near the brain. An injury to the cervical spine results in tetraplegia/quadriplegia. This means there is limited or zero feeling or movement below the neck or shoulders.

* Thoracic spinal cord injury. The damage affects the mid back, the upper chest and the abdominal muscles. The thoracic spine holds the body upright and stable. When injured, the patient can feel thoracic back pain extending into the arms, legs or around the rib cage.

* Lumbar spinal cord injury. It affects the legs and hips. The affected person may need a walking device or a wheelchair to get around. It is the lowest section of the spinal cord, so it carries the most weight and has larger vertebrae. The damage to lumbar spine usually results in loss of function in the hips and legs, but the functionality of the upper body is not affected.

* Sacral spinal cord injury. Though there is no spinal cord in the sacrum region, a person can have symptoms similar to spinal cord damage when the sacral spine gets damaged. This injury rarely happens and may occur only during a fall or direct trauma to the area.

Diagnosis of Spinal Cord Injury

If you sustained an injury, the doctor will examine and test your movement and sensory functions and will ask you what happened during the accident.

If you aren’t fully awake, complain of neck pains, or show signs of neurological injury and weakness, you may need to take emergency diagnostic tests, such as X-Rays, MRIs or CT scans.

Then the doctor will conduct a more comprehensive neurological examination to determine the level and type of the spinal cord injury. This involves testing your muscle strength, light touch, and pinprick sensations. 

Some treatment options include surgery to remove fragments of bones, herniated discs, foreign objects, or fractured vertebrae that may compress the spine. Surgery may also be necessary to stabilise the spinal cord and prevent pain and deformity in the future.

There is no cure for spinal cord injury, but rehabilitation, physiotherapy and adaptive devices may help you gain more independence and enhance your quality of life.

Spinal cord injury and physiotherapy

Physiotherapy for SCI rehabilitation works because PT promotes neuroplasticity – a phenomenon through which the spinal cord and the brain can recover from injury and thus recover the affected functions. Progress in rehabilitation is achieved by focusing on the patient’s weakness and functional movements, such as sitting or walking. Physiotherapy is an effective way to optimise mobility. Professionals will guide you in exercises that will help you recover as many functions as possible.

If you need help identifying the proper physiotherapy and rehabilitation center, please call us at 91 91773 00194 and clear all kinds of reservations you might have regarding physiotherapy treatment or it’s benefits with regards to your particular condition. Our email address is rehab@missionwalk.in.

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