The impact of some auto accidents can leave effects that last for the rest of your life, such as spinal cord damage. People who suffer injury to the spinal cord often face the loss of some of their motor functions for life. Not all spinal cord injuries put a person in a wheelchair, though. Spinal cord injuries can vary in their intensity.
As the Columbia University Department of Neurology explains, almost 200,000 people in the United States live with a spinal cord injury. Not all of them are tetraplegic, meaning that not all of them lose feeling in all their limbs. Some people can still use their arms and hands or breathe without assistance. There are also spinal cord injury victims who can still walk. Different factors affect how severe a spinal cord injury will turn out.
Extent of the injury
An accident can inflict varying degrees of spinal cord damage. Sometimes a person experiences only an incomplete spinal cord injury. This will partially damage the spinal cord but still leave it intact enough for the person to have some feeling and movement below the injury. However, a complete injury makes it impossible for the brain to transmit signals below the point of injury. For instance, a person with a complete spinal cord injury above the legs will not be able to walk or otherwise move the legs.
Location of the injury
A person with spinal cord damage may suffer from symptoms resulting from spinal shock. In addition to a loss of feeling and muscle movement, other symptoms may materialize depending on where the injury happened. A person with an injury to the lumbar vertebrae may only have problems with the bowel system, the bladder, and the lower limbs.
If you were to suffer a spinal cord injury around the neck or the mid-cervical vertebrae, the symptoms can be more severe since injuries in the upper torso may affect your respiratory system. You might require assistance to breathe with the use of a machine like a ventilator.
Treatment for spinal cord injuries
Initial treatments sometimes focus on evaluating the spinal cord to decide how to proceed. Physicians may operate to stabilize damaged backbones or relieve pressure from the damaged location. Once the patient is stable, doctors will work out a treatment plan that suits the needs of the patient. However, there is currently no way to repair a damaged spinal cord. Generally, treatment will involve working with the patient to enhance his or her capabilities to be as independent as possible.