Exploring Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can have devastating physical and mental effects. These types of injuries often require extensive treatment which could last for months or even several years. The following article will prove an in-depth analysis of spinal cord injuries.

What are Some Types of Spinal Cord Injuries?

The severity of a spinal cord injury is classified as either “complete” or “incomplete.”

  • “Complete”: A spinal cord injury is classified as “complete” in situations where a person loses all feeling (sensory) and all ability to control movement (motor function) below the spinal cord injury.
  • “Incomplete”: A spinal cord injury is classified as “incomplete” in situations where a person still has some motor or sensory function below the affected area.

Additionally, there are two types of paralysis that can result from a spinal cord injury, which includes:

  • Tetraplegia (aka “quadriplegia”): This type of paralysis affects your arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs.
  • Paraplegia: This type of paralysis affects all or part of the trunk, legs, and pelvic organs.

What are Some Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries?

Though there are many things that can cause spinal cord injuries, the most common injuries occur when the area of the spine or neck is either bent or compressed. As such, the most common causes include:

  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • Diving accidents
  • Trampoline accidents
  • Violence (such as gunshots or stab wounds)
  • Infections that form an abscess on the spinal cord
  • Birth injuries (which typically affect the spinal cord in the neck area)

What are Some Potential Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries?

There is a wide range of symptoms that indicate a spinal cord injury, but the most common symptoms typically include the following:

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss or altered sensation (including the ability to feel heat, cold, and touch)
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
  • Changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity, and fertility
  • Pain or an intense stinging sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers in your spinal cord
  • Difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from your lungs

In addition to these common symptoms, there are also more severe symptoms which indicate that you should seek medical attention immediately, which include the following:

  • Extreme back pain or pressure in your neck, head, or back
  • Weakness, incoordination, or paralysis in any part of your body
  • Numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in your hands, fingers, feet, or toes
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Difficulty with balance and walking
  • Impaired breathing after injury
  • An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back

Are There Any Ways to Prevent Spinal Cord Injuries?

Of course, not all spinal cord injuries can be prevented. However, there are a few practical tips that may prevent some of these injuries from occurring, which include:

  • Drive safely: Because car crashes are one of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries, you should always ensure that you and any passengers are always wearing seat belts. Additionally, you should ensure that any children are using an age- and weight-appropriate child safety seat and that children under the age of 12 ride in the back seat.
  • Check water depth before diving: Never dive into shallow water or any water of which you do not know the depth.
  • Prevent falls: There are many ways you can prevent falls, including: using a step stool with a grab bar to reach objects in high places; adding handrails along stairways; and placing non-slip mats in the tub or shower.
  • Take proper precautions when playing sports: Always ensure that you wear recommended safety gear and that you do not engage in dangerous or reckless behavior.

Do not drink and drive: Never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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