If a person suffers an injury to the spinal cord, the result may be paraplegia, which describes the loss of sensation and motor function in the lower part of the body. If the arms are also affected, the term is quadriplegia. Depending on the severity of the damage, a person with paraplegia may be able to walk to some degree or may be confined to a wheelchair or other supportive device. Because this type of injury involves a loss of sensation, impotence and degrees of incontinence are involved and may require the use of catheters as well as a bowel management program.
Paraplegia Injury Symptoms
The severity of spinal cord injury is described as complete or incomplete. A complete injury represents a total loss of feeling (called sensory) as well as the ability to control one’s movements (motor function). An incomplete injury means that the person has some feeling and motor function below the level of the injury.
An individual who suffers from paraplegia may have any of the following symptoms:
* loss of bladder control
* intense sensation or pain from damaged fibers in the spinal cord
* difficulty breathing
Following an accident, a person with spinal cord injury may experience:
* severe pain or pressure in the neck or the back
* numbness or loss of sensation in the hands and fingers
Damage to the spinal cord cannot be reversed. However, there are treatments and medications that can help to improve mobility and even increase the generation of new cells. Once the patient is stabilized, medical attention becomes focused on rehabilitation. At the outset, that may include many medical members such as a physical therapist, social worker, and a doctor and nurse who specialize in spinal cord injuries. The injured person is taught how to live with the effects of a spinal cord injury and how to prevent any complications from it. Learning to live with certain medications also may be necaessary to control pain and ease muscle movement.
Recovery treatment may also include the use of devices that aid movement and function, including:
* light weight wheelchairs
* electronic aids that can be turned on and off by the voice or computer remote
* computers that aid those with limited hand function
Although there is no magic recovery for spinal cord injury, improvements in daily functioning may continue for as long as a year or more after the accident.