The human body is a complex system that comprises of several organ systems which work together in synchronization for the sustenance of life. The central nervous System (CNS) is one such crucial system made up of the brain and the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a thin, fragile, tube-like structure made of a bunch of nerves and other tissues that start from the medulla oblongata of the brain and continues down to the lumbar region of the vertebral column, close to the buttocks. The nerves function as transmission lines that carry messages from the brain to the rest of the body and vice versa. This is why we are able to move, feel pressure, control vital functions like breathing, bladder, and bowel and perceive pain.
What is Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Any potential damage done to the spinal cord could disrupt the required communication between the brain and the rest of the body, as a result of which loss of movements and sensation below the level of injury occurs. Spinal cord injury is a serious type of physical trauma which is likely to have a long-lasting impact on daily activities.
Potential Causes and Types of SCI
A spinal cord injury often occurs because of an unpredictable accident or a violent event. The most prevalent form of damages occur when the spine is bent or compressed or any damage done to the vertebrae, ligaments or spinal disks as in the following events:
- Gunshots and stabbing, which results in penetrating injuries that pierce the cord.
- Accidental falls
- Electrical accidents
- Trampoline accidents
- Sports and recreation injuries
- None traumatic injuries resulting from conditions like arthritis.
The consequences of spinal cord injury are truly daunting. The severity of the damage largely depends on the part of the spinal cord subjected to injury. SCI is categorized according to the person’s type of loss of motor and sensory functions.
- Any sort of injury to the spinal cord in the back can lead to a loss of mobility and sensation in legs, stomach muscles, and pelvic region and it is termed as Paraplegia.
- Any kind of damage to the spinal cord in the neck can typically result in paralysis throughout the larger parts of the body that includes four limbs and torso. This condition is termed as Quadriplegia.
Additional damages too could occur over a few days or weeks because of bleeding, inflammation and fluid accumulation in and around the spinal cord.
Signs and Symptoms
After a deeply distressing experience, your body will experience a spinal shock, which results in loss of sensation, muscle movements, and reflexes below the level of injury. The shock lasts for a greater period of time, after which one or more of the following symptoms tend to appear.
- Urinary incontinence
- Severe pain and stiffness in the back or neck area
- Tingling in the extremities
- The emergence of unusual lumps on the head and spine
- Difficulty in balancing and walking.
As soon as you are diagnosed with SCI, surgery is carried out, not to reverse the injury (as it is not possible), but to stabilize the spine to prevent further damage.