The spinal cord tissue of the human body is extremely delicate. When that muscle is torn, crushed or bruised, it leads to significant spinal cord injuries. Most spinal cord injuries are the result of an accident, but may also be the manifestation of a disease.
Statistics show that close to half a million Americans live with some form of spinal cord injuries. These stats also highlight the disparity in spinal cord injuries among males and females. Roughly 82% of spinal injuries are suffered by men. Here are some of the most common causes of a spinal injury:
– Wounds resulting from a knife or a gunshot.
– Slipping and falling.
– Accidents during sports such as football, basketball or car racing.
What Happens in a Spinal Cord Injury?
When the spinal tissue is damaged, it means that the human brain is incapable of getting messages across to that area of the body. People who suffer spinal cord damage may suffer from difficulty breathing, deficits in their sensory and motor skills, and the problem with their bladder and bowels.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can be divided into two simple categories: incomplete injuries and complete injuries. A complete spinal cord injury means that everything below the point of damage will stop functioning. People who suffer a complete spinal cord injury will be unable to feel or move any part of their body below the point of impact.
An incomplete spinal injury is not as severe. The body may still be paralyzed from the waist down, but some feeling may be retained in the legs and other lower body parts. The extent of an incomplete spinal injury varies on a case by case basis.
Complete Spinal Injuries
If someone suffers a complete spinal injury, they will be in a state of paraplegia or tetraplegia.
Spinal injury victims who suffer paraplegia will be unable to move or feel the lower parts of their body, such as the legs, bladder, bowels and sex organs. They will still be able to use their upper body parts, such as the neck, arms, and hands.
A small percentage of people who suffer paraplegia can move short distances with crutches or other equipment. They are also able to stand by leaning on a strong support device. However, most paraplegia sufferers must move courtesy of a wheelchair.
Suffering from tetraplegia is the worst impact a spinal injury can have. Tetraplegia refers to the inability to move or feel any part of your body. The arms and hands and neck cannot be moved. Most people suffering from tetraplegia need a ventilator to breathe properly.
Incomplete Spinal Injuries
It is more typical for a powerful impact on the spine to result in an incomplete spinal injury. Patients who suffer this injury may not be able to move freely below the point of impact, but they do retain feeling in most of their body.
The degree of an incomplete spinal injury can only be determined a couple of months after the injury. The recovery process is long, complicated, and varies in each case. Some patients will retain feeling in their lower body, but have no movement. Others will be able to move parts of their lower body, but lose feeling in those areas.
If individual nerve cells are damaged, this may create a temporary loss of function and feel in the body. For example, someone who suffers a spinal contusion will experience bleeding, swelling, and significant bruising. These effects, along with the loss of function or feeling, are only temporary.