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Paralysis & Spinal Cord Injuries

Those who sustain traumatic injuries to their spinal cord may suffer from partial or total paralysis. Paralysis is a loss of muscle function which is caused by damage to the nervous system. Since there are so many nerves located in the spinal column, trauma to this region may cause this condition. It is not uncommon for people to experience a loss of feeling or a tingling in some of their limbs after an accident in which they injured their back.

Paralysis can also be caused by diseases that affect the nervous system and muscles, such as:

  • Bell's Palsy
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Paraplegia & Tetraplegia

Among the differing types of paralysis are paraplegia and tetraplegia. Paraplegia refers to the loss of function of the lower extremities only. This occurs when the lower regions of the spinal canal (thoracic, lumbar, or sacral) sustain trauma. Paraplegia renders a person's legs immobile. Tetraplegia, or more commonly referred to as quadriplegia, is total or partial loss that affects all limbs. Not only does an individual lose feeling of the limbs, but they lose their ability to move their limbs. According to the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA), there are five ways to classify a spinal cord injury: complete, three types of incomplete and normal.

Complete & Incomplete Injuries

A complete spinal cord injury will result in a total loss of all feeling and function of limbs. The first type of incomplete injury will cause an individual to lose feeling in the limbs, but they may still be able to retain function of the limbs. The second kind of incomplete injury will allow the function to be preserved, but more than half of the muscles will have a muscle grade of less than three.

Muscle grading indicates the strength and endurance of any particular muscle. A grade of three is fair, which means that the muscle can hold against gravity, but is not able to endure additional pressure. The third type of incomplete paralysis means that motor function is preserved but half the key muscles are at a grade of three or above. A normal spinal cord injury means that all motor and sensory functions remain normal. It is necessary to be evaluated by a medical professional in order to determine the extent of your injuries and your best treatment options.

Treatment & Rehabilitation

With recent advances in medical technology and research, doctors are making headway on improving and treating paralysis. In theory, it is possible, but for now, there is only rehabilitation and treatment to improve, not cure paralysis. One way that paralysis patients are commonly treated is by seeing a physiatrist. This type of doctor will specialize in rehabilitation and can treat both acute and chronic pain resulting from the injury. Occupational therapy is also a common avenue for treatment. These individuals are professionals whose job it is to help patients re-learn how to perform day to day activities with their condition.

Physical therapy is slightly different. Their primary goal is simply to help patients strengthen their muscles and coordination. There is also something called functional electrical stimulation (FES) that paralyzed people may benefit from. This treatment uses electrical currents to re-activate the nerves that have been damaged. Some people have even been able to walk again and have their bowel and bladder functions restored. Talk to your doctor about the treatment options that you may benefit from. To obtain the best treatment, you may want to work with an attorney in the event that the accident that caused your paralysis was the result of wrongful actions.

Types of Injuries

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