Every year, between 250,000 and 500,000 people worldwide suffer a spinal cord injury. In addition to the immediate pain and terror of the injury, spinal cord injuries carry some additional fear. Many of us know that spinal cord injuries could leave you paralyzed, and often it feels like there are little doctors can do to help.
If you do suffer a spinal cord injury, knowing what to expect from treatment can make the whole situation less frightening. Read on to learn more about the treatment options after these injuries and how you can get your life back afterward.
What Is Spinal Cord Injury?
Before we dive into the ways spinal cord injuries are treated, let’s talk some about what they are. Your spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that run down the center of your spine and control every part of your body. These nerves carry messages from your brain to your muscles, telling your arms and legs to move, giving you sensation throughout your body, and even controlling your breathing.
A spinal cord injury can cover any sort of damage to that bundle of nerves. These injuries can cause you to lose sensation or function in various parts of your body, depending on what nerves got damaged. In some cases, you may even become paralyzed, and the effects of this injury could last the rest of your life.
When your spinal cord first gets injured, you’re going to require immediate emergency care. If you think you or someone else has an injury to their back, the most important thing is to not move them. Moving someone with a spinal cord injury could cause further damage, potentially even cutting the spinal cord entirely.
When the paramedics get there, they will immobilize the injured person to stabilize their spine and then take them to the emergency room. There, doctors will work to keep the patient breathing and keep them from going into shock. They may also try some new experimental treatments to minimize further damage to the spinal cord.
In many cases, patients with spinal cord injuries will need surgery to fix any immediate threats to their spinal cord. If nothing else, doctors will need to stabilize the spine to keep it from causing any further damage to the spinal cord. They may also need to remove anything putting pressure on the spinal cord, such as fragments of bone, foreign materials, and so on.
After the surgery, doctors will need to keep a close eye on the patient for several days or weeks. They’ll work to prevent any complications that may come from the injury or the surgery. This could include things like blood clots, respiratory infections, pressure ulcers, and so on.
Almost as soon as you’re out of surgery, rehabilitation specialists will start working with you on tools and techniques to manage your new ability level. Unfortunately, in most cases, full recovery from a spinal cord injury is not possible. You’ll need to learn to work with whatever new level of functioning you have after your injury.
Depending on the nature and severity of your spinal injury, your therapists may teach you to use a wheelchair or might begin working with you to strengthen the muscles in your legs and back. They’ll teach you how to do everything from putting on pants and shoes to cooking and doing household chores. If your injury is more severe, they may have to teach you to eat again, as well as how to manage other bodily functions.
In many cases, spinal cord injury patients have to use a wheelchair after they leave the hospital. It’s important to know that your life is not over just because you’re in a wheelchair. You can still do many of the things you used to, including working, exercising, caring for yourself, and spending time with your family.
Your rehab specialists will help you find a wheelchair style that works for both your lifestyle and your new ability level. They’ll teach you how to manage curbs, how to get in and out of your wheelchair, and how to maneuver. In time and with some adjustments, you may be able to cook, shower, and care for yourself on your own.
Electrical Stimulation Devices
In addition to wheelchairs and other assistive devices, there are some new treatments that may help spinal cord injury patients to get some function back. Electrical stimulation devices (ESD) can help patients regain some control over their muscles. This technology is still in development and is improving all the time.
Your brain controls your muscles by sending electrical impulses up and down your spinal column, but when your spinal cord is damaged, those “signals” get interrupted. ESDs act as a bridge for that damage, interpreting the impulses from your brain and passing them on to the appropriate muscles. Some patients with these devices can gain better control over their arms and legs and may even be able to stand or walk again with help from the device.
Learn More About Spinal Cord Injury Treatment
A spinal cord injury is very serious and will have an impact on the rest of your life. Immediately after the injury, doctors will be focused on keeping your body systems functioning and stabilizing your spine. Then rehab specialists will begin teaching you how to function with paralysis and use assistive devices, such as wheelchairs and ESDs.
If you’d like to learn more about spinal cord injury treatment, check out the rest of our site at Neurocare of Nevada. We provide current, well-researched therapies to help treat neurological disorders. Contact us today and discover how we focus on quality care to get you the best possible results.