Spinal cord injuries are one of the horror story scenarios of the medical world. Most of us grow up with some fear of getting a spinal injury – we know it can mean the rest of your life spent in a wheelchair. But not many of us know very many important spinal cord facts.
If you’ve had a spinal cord injury or want to know more about them, it can be hard to know where to start. Read on to learn some important spinal cord facts and what happens when you injure your spinal cord.
Your spinal cord is made up of nerves that send out information to the body and receives information back from the body. It lets you know where your body parts are (such as that your arm is up or your leg is held out) and helps move information from your brain to the different parts of your body.
A spinal cord injury happens when any damage comes to the spinal cord. This can be bruising, tearing, cutting, or any other damage. It depends on what kind of injury you’ve had and how severe it is. Some of the common causes of spinal cord injury includes: motor vehicle accidents, slip-and-falls, medical malpractice.
There can be several symptoms associated with spinal cord injuries, again depending on what kind of injury it is. You can have loss of function in your limbs, including loss of large and small muscles and loss of bladder and bowel control and loss of diaphragm function. You can also have paresthesia, which is abnormal or painful tingling sensations.
You may also find yourself with a lack of blood pressure control after a spinal cord injury. But if you find yourself with any loss of function, you should see a doctor. Even if the spine gets bruised, not severed, you should still see your doctor; the symptoms may resolve over time, but you need to be very careful.
The severity of spinal cord injuries is a huge range; from simple bruising to full severing, injuries can run the gamut. One of the biggest questions in spinal cord injuries is how high up the spine the injury is. The higher the injury is, the more loss of function you’re going to have and the worse your prognosis is going to be.
Another major factor is how badly the spinal cord is damaged. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves, so if a few are bruised, you may only experience loss of function for a few weeks. But if your spinal cord is entirely severed, you are likely to be paralyzed for life.
The most important thing you can do in case of a spinal cord injury is to not move the injured person. The wrong movement can cause more damage to the spinal cord and mean the difference between a short recovery time and paralysis. Unless the injured person is in imminent danger, leave them where they are until help shows up.
If you must move the injured person, you’ll want to be as careful as you possibly can be during this process. The first thing you need to do is immobilize the head and the spine however you can – some sort of improvised splint is best. Move them as little as possible to get them into a more sustainable situation and then call for help.
As we mentioned, your prognosis depends a lot on how badly your spinal cord is damaged and how high up the injury is. Some of it depends on how the spinal cord was cut – whether it was torn, partially cut, fully cut, etc. Your prognosis will also depend on what sort of health you were in before the accident.
But even if you have had some severing of the spinal cord, you may not be paralyzed forever. In some cases, those nerves in the spinal cord can reconnect and heal so you can walk again. If your doctors think this may be the case in your injury, they’ll have you doing as much as you can to move and promote function.
The treatment you get in the immediate time after the injury depends on what kind of injury you have and how serious it is. If it’s a less serious injury – bruising, for example – you’ll likely just have physical therapy and observation. In a more severe injury, the doctors will be focused most on stabilizing your spinal cord and making sure you get proper nutrition and other care.
If you have a spinal cord injury, you’re going to have physical and occupational therapy during your recovery process. Physical therapy works on maintaining your physical function as much as possible. Occupational therapy works on activities of daily living, or helping you learn adaptive ways to live your life with an injury, including getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and more.
After you get out of the hospital, you’re going to spend a lot of time going through rehab. If your injury is severe (such as if you’re paralyzed), you’ll spend a lot of time in the occupational therapy that we mentioned. They’ll teach you how to eat, dress, bathe, and live as independently as possible.
If you are paralyzed, you’ll learn how to use a wheelchair and how to use adaptive tools like reachers and such. You may also have speech therapy if you have problems with swallowing and speech. They’ll help you learn to use and develop the muscles in your mouth and neck to help get you back to as much normal function as possible.
Spinal cord injuries can be scary, but a lot depends on what kind of injury it is and where it is on the spine. Even if you’ve had an injury, you may be able to return to full function with enough time. Knowing some of these important spinal cord facts can help you be prepared for an injury should one happen.
If you have had a spinal cord injury, reach out to us at Find Injury Law. We can help you get the justice you deserve in a timely fashion. We can assist you with finding the right spinal cord injury lawyer in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania for your case. Check out our list of practice areas today.