The spinal cord is nothing but a collection of nerves that starts from the base of your brain and runs all the way till your lower back. It is protected by the spine. When you get hit on your spine, you are left with dislocated spinal bones and damaged spinal cord nerves. Nerves are what connects our various body parts to our brain. When a nerve is damaged, the body part associated with it stops functioning normally.
In case of spinal cord damage, based on the location, any part of your body between your neck and toes can be damaged. Living with a disability can be hurtful and challenging. This is not a life you would want to live in. However, with proper guidance, you can still live a peaceful life. In India, there are 10 out of 10,000 people who suffer from Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and yet they survive to inspire others.
If you have been in a recent accident and have lost both your motor abilities and hopes for normal life to SCI, this article will shed some light on the spinal cord and how you can still continue to lead a normal life.
Spinal Cord and Their Function
A spinal cord is a tube-like bundle of nerves that originate from the brain and runs down your back until the end of your spine. Your spinal cord is protected by the three-layered tissue wall called meninges and your spine.
Your spine is made up of 33 backbones or vertebrae. When you walk or jump, your backbones are protected by cartilaginous disks against any damages these activities cause. This acts as a cushion and prevents any damage. Together backbones and disks form vertebral column within which the spinal cord rests. Any damage to your vertebral column can cause disabilities and even death.
The spinal cord function mainly rotates around the nerves that it is composed of. In addition to controlling our reflexes like tendon jerks, spinal cord also helps us in making coordinated sequences of movements.
In simple words, the main responsibility of the spinal cord is enabling various body parts to communicate with the brain. This is made possible by the electrical impulses that go up and down through the spinal cord, from the brain to different parts of your body. For example, when you touch a hot surface, the muscles of your hand sends an impulse to your brain saying that the surface is hot and in return, your brain sends back a message to your hand muscle asking it to retrieve the hands. All this process takes place in a fraction of second.
In addition, when you walk, sit, eat, jog or do any activities that involve your glands and muscle, your spinal cord is responsible for the coordination of various muscles to achieve the results. For this reason, if you suffer from any injury to the spinal cord, your normal function will be affected based on the part of the injured spinal cord.
Spinal Cord Injury Causes
A sudden blow to your spine is what causes the spinal cord injury. Most often, it is found that one of the following reasons are responsible for such a forceful blow.
- Road accidents
- Sports injuries
- Assault and violence
- Diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, infections(TB)
- Infection or spinal stenosis
- Birth defect like spina bifida
Effects of Spinal Cord Injury
You may think that only movement is affected due to SCI. Unfortunately, that is not true. Based on the location of the injury, you may find any of the following effects in a patient:
- Losing control over bowel and bladder
- Pain in the injured region of the body and pain that radiates to other parts of a body
- The tingling sensation or numb fingers
- Damaged sexual function
- Gastrointestinal troubles
- Contracting bed sores due to lying on the bed for long
- Changes in the sensation all through the body
- Difficulty or changes in your breathing and developing sleep apnea
Overcoming Fear Of Living With Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury has left many people disabled for life. Everyone is left wondering how life is going to be after the injury. To be honest, even the doctors are unable to explain what it will be like because it mainly depends on the extent of the injury a person has suffered. Some patients may eventually start walking after a few months of physiotherapy sessions, but few take years to jus to move their fingers. In the end, there is no turning away from the changes that this injury inflicts in life but what you can do is adapt to it quickly to lead a normal life.
1. Start With Streamlining Your Life to Fit Your Needs
Rehabilitation at the initial stages works to lift your spirits. Here, you will learn new skills that will help you get along with basic day-to-day activities such as sitting and getting up from your wheelchair and bathing. If you progress at that, you can move forward your spinal cord injury treatment to learn a new sport, drive a specially-equipped car, and various ways to socialize and keep you moving.
When you recover enough to support yourself, you have to make a lot of changes around your home that will help you get along with your daily activities with no hassle. Firstly, make sure you choose the right type of wheelchair for yourself. Add shower chairs to your bath as well. This will assist you in easy bathing and getting out of the bathroom without injuring yourself. To make your movements around your home easier, you can consider the installation of railings and ramps.
2. Tie Yourself to a Goal
Once you make yourself comfortable around your home, it is time to settle down and go on with your life. This is the part where many patients suffer from mental issues like depression and anxiety. For this reason, it is essential to tie yourself to a goal and keep yourself busy. You can use the below pointers to set yourself goals that are going to help you ease your life.
- Always start with small goals. You can take the help of your physiotherapist and set yourself small everyday goals that you can try to achieve.
- For long-term goals, think back about the goal you had in life before you succumbed to the injury. You may still be able to accomplish it with some help and your willpower.
- Whether you are on your way to finishing college, getting a job, getting married, starting a family or no matter what your life goals are there will always be major setbacks that you have to face and achieve your goals in anyways.
- You can take advantage of the scientific and technological advancement to your benefits and get yourself adaptive computer equipment.
- There are many online resources, success stories, and rehabilitation centres that are ready to offer you all the assistance you need.
3. Take Care of Your Overall Health
You may be keeping yourself busy with your goals, but you must never forget to take care of your overall health. One thing may lead to another and you may end up with a host of infections. We have listed a few of the tips here that you may find helpful.
- Consult a doctor frequently for check-ups and influenza vaccine
- Get your bladders checked every year
- Maintain a healthy diet and keep a check on your weight
- Never smoke
- Exercise regularly
Prevention of Spinal Cord Injury
As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure”, keep a lookout for the following pointers and avoid SCI.
- Use seatbelt while driving a car
- Use child safety restraints in your vehicle
- Avoid driving vehicle when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Avoid distractions like text messages and phone calls
- Follow speed limits and traffic rules
- Eliminate any fall hazards inside your home
- If you are a sports person, use appropriate protection gear
- Avoid diving into dirty and shallow water
Driving safety tips, infrastructures, roads, proper enforcement of traffic rules, timely and effective emergency care are essential components in reducing any fatal incidents from spinal cord injuries.
In case you do injure yourself, you have to remember that the path to spinal cord injury recovery can be strenuous but your will to survive and fight back should be greater. Only then will you emerge as a champion in this test called Life.