Hopkins Medicine defines an acute spinal cord injury as an “injury that is due
to a traumatic injury that can either result in a bruise, a partial tear, or a
complete tear in the spinal cord.”
Spinal cord injuries are very dangerous physical injuries which not only affect
your health but also your everyday life such as being paralyzed or disabled
permanently. Usually if one is affected by some
type of spinal cord injury, that person will not be able to continue living a
normal life and will need assistance for many things, which can bring a toll on
someone emotionally and mentally.
Fortunately, rehabilitation and treatments are there for anyone who needs it
and doctors are “optimistic that advances in research will someday make the
repair of spinal cord injuries to assist the injured live a more normal life.
There are two types of spinal cord injuries: complete and
incomplete. A complete injury “means that
there is no function below the level of the injury, neither sensation or
movement, and both sides of the body are equally affected.
Complete injuries can happen at any level of the spinal cord”.
Basically it would mean that where ever the injury happened, the patient would
be paralyzed from that point down.
This means that the patient’s life would be restricted and not be able to live
a normal health life. Complete injuries are
harder to recover from since it means that there would be a lot more physical
therapy and that does take a toll on people.
An incomplete injury “means that there is some function below the level of the
injury, movement in one limb more than the other, feeling in parts of the body,
or more function on one side of the body than the other.
injuries can happen at any level of the spinal cord”.
With incomplete injuries, there is a
higher chance for recovery since the doctors are not starting from square one.
They have movement to build off of.
Many things can cause spinal cord injuries such as: “an act of violence such as
a stabbing or a gun shot, diving into water that’s too shallow and hitting the
bottom, trauma during a car accident (specifically trauma to the face, head and
neck region, back, or chest area), falling from a significant height, head or
spinal injury during sporting events, electrical accidents, severe twisting of
the middle portion of the torso, birth injuries, alcohol use, and diseases”
(O’Connell, 2015) . Usually doctors can
tell if there is a spinal cord injury because of its symptoms.
Symptoms include “problems walking, loss of control of the bladder or bowels,
inability to move the arms or legs, feelings of spreading numbness or tingling
in the extremities, unconsciousness, headaches, pain, pressure, stiffness in
the back or neck area, signs of shock, unnatural positioning of the head, loss
of feeling in the trunk, arms, or legs, muscle spasticity, breathing problems,
problems with heart rate and blood pressure, digestive problems, and sexual
Since help is limited in the technological field of rehabilitation
only having modern wheelchairs, computer adaptations, electronic aids to daily
living, electrical stimulation devices, and robotic gait training, a
rehabilitation team is used to get the muscles working again.
Rehabilitation is used to help with “bladder control, bowel control, skin
sensation, circulatory control, respiratory system, muscle tone, fitness and
wellness, sexual health, pain, and depression”. (Mayo
clinic, 2014) The treatments can be separated into two stages: acute and
rehabilitation. The acute phase is from when the
injury happens to when the person is considered to be independent, meaning they
could do stuff on their own. It is basically
where the person is getting the medical attention that is needed.
The first days of the acute phase has the person going through spinal shock,
where the person has no reflexes at all.
This is the hardest phase for doctors because they “can’t determine the exact
prognosis” meaning that they cannot determine if it is a complete injury or
incomplete. With the rehabilitation phase, the
team wants as much function as possible to return to the patient.
the team has plans which “often include: helping the person understand his or
her injuries, helping the person understand the details regarding his or her
care, helping the person become as independent as possible in everyday
activities such as bathing, eating, dressing, grooming, and wheelchair use,
helping the person learn to accept a new lifestyle, especially pertaining to
sexual, recreational, and housing options, helping the person learn how to
instruct caregivers in how to assist them, preparing them for vocational
rehabilitation.” Within the rehabilitation phase,
many technological advances have been invented in order for the phase to be
aided and the patient to recover quicker.
Modern wheelchairs are very helpful for spinal cord injury victims because they
provide mobility for those who can’t walk.
With the advances in technology; they have wheel chairs that can do a variety
of things that aid with everyday life.
Many new intelligent personal assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google home
help people with limited hand movement due to spinal cord injuries use
computers. Homes are even equipped with power
motion tools, so it makes it easier to use things around the house.
Doctors and scientists also have electrical stimulation devices that “control
arm and leg muscles to allow people with a spinal cord injury to stand walk,
reach and grip.” And with walking, now they have
robotic gait training which helps a person to walk after spinal cord injury.
the recovery process takes time, people are going to feel certain ways about
the news they hear about the spinal cord and what its effects are going to be.
Since the spinal cord is such an important piece of the body, it must take time
for it to recover and that just the time it will take in order for the patient
to start to be able to recover can start a week after the injury or even
months, and even then, people don’t see improvements for a while.
This can have a toll on someone’s emotions.
At first, it is going to be a big game of denial and sadness.
is why it is best to surround the patient with friends and family to bring all
Obviously, the patient will grieve about losing his or her old lifestyle but it’s
good to look past that and plan your new life ahead.
But if the person chooses to be anti-social or abusing drugs and alcohol then
they should be given expert help by a counselor. It
is better to talk about the problems that are being faced then hide them away.
That is another reason why it is so good to have a counselor or family around,
With sexual activity “your spinal cord injury may affect your body’s response
to sexual stimuli. However, you’re a
sexual being with sexual desires. A
fulfilling emotional and physical relationship is possible but requires
communication, experimentation and patience.”
It may be absurd to think that not
having a sexual life can be emotionally unhealthy, but it is.
anxiety that comes with not having sexual desires fulfilled actually can hurt physiologically.
It is funny though of how people that are affected with spinal cord injury
start to think of how little they can do when after all the treatment they can
do so much more. There are so many new
advances when it comes to spinal cord injuries that doctors are working on that
it gives hope for anyone dealing with it that there will be a better and
Now from the
doctor’s point of view, they first have to tell if it actually is a spinal cord
They would most likely be able to tell “by careful inspection, testing for
sensory injury”. In some cases,
examination is not just enough, so doctors will have to do emergency test.
could give simple x-rays which could show spinal cord problem or fractures.
They could also give the patient a MRI, magnetic resonance imaging.
“MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce computer generated
This test is very helpful for looking at the spinal cord and identifying
herniated disks, blood clots or other masses that may be compressing the spinal
The most dangerous thing about injuring the spinal cord is that it is connected
to the brain, so any kind of damage there could ruin a person’s life.
That is why it is also good to get a CT, computerized tomography.
that is that it looks more in depth in the x-rays and finds peculiar images
that are going on with your spine and brain. After
all the tests are completed, the doctors then can lead the patient to find the
right rehabilitation for their injuries.
Once the patient is in rehabilitation, there is not much else the doctors can
are still looking for new treatments and medicines that can help a person
dealing with spinal cord injuries recover fully.
Back into the patient’s view, once all the tests are over there is really
nothing they can do. They would be on a lot
of medication to help give mild improvement.
The medications help to ease pain or can
help bladder and bowel control. Others would be
stuck in the category of immobilization, going to back to incomplete and
the patient has an incomplete injury, they would most likely not be put into
this category, but with complete, since they cannot move anything they would be
considered immobile. But for incomplete
injuries, they would have the option for surgery.
“Often surgery is necessary to remove fragments of bones, foreign objects,
herniated disks or fractured vertebrae that appear to be compressing the spine.”
Finally another test, which is more of a riskier one, is experimental
treatments. This is not the smartest path to
go down but yet if there are no other options then of course but since they
have had no real proof that some f these experiments work, the patient maybe be
putting his or her life at risk. But “after the
initial injury or disease stabilizes, doctors turn their attention to
preventing secondary problems that may arise, such as deconditioning, muscle
contractures, pressure ulcers, bowel and bladder issues, respiratory infections
and blood clots.”
Now preventing spinal cord injury information most people
do not know. Since
there are many causes to spinal cord injuries, there are many ways to protect
from those causes such as being smart.
Being smart is a top choice because people never stop to think before the act.
They always act and skip the thinking part. Another
way is to always wear the seatbelt when driving. Now
many causes come out of this one since it is one of the more common ways to
have a spinal cord injury. The impact from the
car can disrupt the spinal cords placement leaving it to tear some of the
tissue surrounding it. Also, never dive into
water unless you’ve examined it first to make sure it is deep enough and free
This one is also very important because it can also lead to other injury such
as head injuries, broken bones, and also dislocations.
also can cause cuts in which it can get infected. Finally, wearing the proper
gear for sports always helps. Too many
injuries have been cause by sports because people haven’t been wearing the
right gear. It is always good to protect.
Over 300,000 people are affected by spinal cord injuries
in the United States. There have been more
incomplete injuries than complete but yet the number still grows.
people suffering from it, their lives have been turned upside down.
They will never live the life they used to before. It is a sad thought but yet
it can happen to anyone. Spinal cord injuries are one of the most common
injuries in the United States. Doctors are still trying to find a better way to
heal the spine, but until then, the advances in technology aid tremendously.