What You Need to Know About Spinal Cord InjuryWhat You Need to Know About Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury Types

The information we provide related to spinal cord injury (SCI) can be daunting, complicated, and scary. A SCI often causes permanent loss of strength, sensation, and the ability to voluntarily move parts of the body below the injury site. Cervical spine injuries often result in quadriplegia, where all four limbs are affected. Many quads have partial use of their arms. Thoracic and lumbar (T1-L5 sections of the spine) injuries cause paraplegia, paralysis of the lower half of your body. One might have trouble moving legs and feet, and the stomach muscles may be weakened or lost.

Spinal Cord Injuries Affect More Than Just Movement

Spinal cord injuries not only affect movement, but they can also affect many other aspects, such as sensation. Loss of feeling doesn’t allow your body to circulate blood well beneath your injury level. This poor circulation and not being able to “feel” makes your skin more compromised. Sitting or lying in one spot for too long and not feeling when that “numbness feeling” is setting in leads to skin breakdown. Skin breakdown could lead to a pressure sore that requires special treatment and, if it gets too bad, bedridden, sepsis, surgeries, long stays in the hospital, which can take months to years to heal.

Other complexities include a compromised lung function, gastric upset, muscle spasms throughout the body and organs.  Constant pain can be problematic either from the injury,  nerve pain, surgery, or metal insertion to mend the break. 

Urinary and bowel issues are not uncommon after a spinal cord injury. The bladder may be retentive or overactive. Usually, medication or implanted devices help with these conditions. Bowel and bladder issues can lead to frequent UTIs requiring antibiotics. Eventually, due to overuse, one becomes antibiotic-resistant. Severe symptoms such as headaches, fever, chills, severe sweats, increased muscle spasms, and a leaky bladder requires IV antibiotics and often hospitalization. Hence, Ubee Nutrition ProFlow UTI Defense was born.

Spinal Cord Injury & Autonomic Dysreflexia

Other conditions accompanying spinal cord injury include difficulty maintaining normal blood pressure and heart rate changes, inability to regulate body temperature due to not having the ability to sweat. This medical condition is called Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD).  AD can be very dangerous and even life-threatening.

Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD) is a potentially life-threatening medical condition that many people with spinal cord injury (SCI) experience when there is pain or discomfort below their level of damage, even if one cannot feel the pain or discomfort.

AD happens because there is a change in the body’s autonomic reflexes after injury. It affects people with injury levels at or above T6. People with injury levels below T6 may also be at risk for AD in some rare situations.

Symptoms of Autonomic Dysreflexia

Pounding headache, sweating above the level of injury, slow pulse (although rare, a fast pulse can occur), goosebumps, skin redness or flushing, nasal congestion, chills without fever, blurred vision, restlessness, cold and clammy skin below the level of injury.

For most people, AD can be easily treated as well as prevented. Once they have identified the cause of an AD episode, they might need to change how they do things to prevent future episodes.

After SCI, taking care of your body is a choice to prevent atrophy. The basics for maintenance are a range of motion of the limbs and weight-bearing. One can achieve lifelong commitments to rehabilitation, supplements, medical and assistive devices, physical therapy, standing table, stretching, and modified exercise.  Time, resources, ambition, and a host of things create obstacles for many. It is not uncommon for one to need a caregiver to assist them in activities of daily living (ADL’s). 

People with spinal cord injuries can be fully functioning members of society. Many drive a modified vehicle, work, volunteer, go to recreational events, hang with friends, or just about anything. It might not be the exact way a non-disabled person does, with a bit of modification, ingenuity, desire, and help. People who survive their injury can and do elect to move forward in their lives: to have babies while paralyzed, navigate University campuses while paralyzed, and troubleshoot an inaccessible world.  Anything is possible! Read about our team members and their story of living with an SCI.

People that survive their injury are not martyrs or saints, or champions. They are blessed. They are strong.