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Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can be quite serious. Loss of feeling or mobility is common for spinal cord injuries, which result from trauma such as car accidents, industrial accidents, gunshots or from disease such as polio, spina bifida or Friedreich's Ataxia.

 

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Spinal cord injuries are different from some common back injuries such as ruptured disks, spinal stenosis or pinched nerves. In fact, some skeletal back injuries such as broken vertebra may not damage the spinal cord and thus not cause paralysis.

The spinal cord itself is a bundle of nerves that carry impulses to and from the brain to the rest of the body. The brain and spinal cord make up the Central Nervous System and the nerves outside the CNS constitute the Peripheral Nervous System. The CNS is what is involved in spinal cord injuries.

Paralysis can occur when the spinal cord nerves inside the vertebra are damaged. The vertebra may collapse or crush the spinal cord nerves severing, damaging or bruising all or some of the nerve cells. The type of damage to the nerve cells typically determines the extent of the functional impairments.

Spinal cord injuries are divided into two types: complete and incomplete. Complete spinal cord injury means that there is no functioning below the area of the injury whether on a feeling level of voluntary movement level. An incomplete spinal cord injury means that there is some feeling and movement below the level of the injury. A person may be able to move one limb more that the other or feel a limb that cannot be moved.

Spinal cord injuries do not stop immediately after impact, though. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, "Damage to the spinal cord does not stop immediately after the initial injury, but continues in the hours following trauma. These delayed injury processes present windows of opportunity for treatments aimed at reducing the extent of disability resulting from spinal cord injury."

Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries

Aggressive treatment and rehabilitation of those which spinal cord damage can minimize the injury and restore some movement to limbs. Since respiratory damage is an indication of the severity of the spinal cord trauma, approximately one-third of those with spinal cord damage will need assistance in breathing after the injury. Medical treatment using steroids or endorphin blockers is common and use of electrical stimulation devices is being developed. Physical therapies, skill-building activities and counseling are part of the typical rehabilitation treatment plan.

Six years ago actor Christopher Reeve brought much national attention to spinal cord trauma and research. Because of recent efforts much new technology has developed such as better wheelchairs (even those that can climb stairs), Voice-activated computer technology for making phone calls and paying bills online and even research into treadmill-assisted walking.

New developments in stem cell research hold much promise for the future for those with spinal cord injuries. With a renewed emphasis on public awareness, there is more hope than ever before for those who have been impacted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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