The risk of spinal cord injury is something we all live with and is more common than many think. Damage to the bones can cartilage of the spine, and the nerves they protect, can lead to life-changing and permanent paralysis as well as a host of other health problems.
Any injury that causes damage to the spinal cord may also make permanent or more temporary changes to the way it functions. This could include loss of sensation or numbness, the inability to move certain parts of the body and impairment of the autonomic functions of the body such as breathing, heart function and even digestion.
The higher up or closer to the brain spinal cord damage occurs, the more parts of the body will be affected. That damage can lead to partial paralysis or loss of function or, in more serious cases, complete paralysis from the point of injury downwards.
A fair amount of research has been carried out on spinal cord injuries in the last few years, both in the US, UK as well as around the world. This shows the impact of this kind of injury not only on the individual but on their immediate family and society as a whole.
First of all, the risk of spinal cord injury is higher than we think:
As you might expect, there is a considerable impact on all areas of life when someone suffers from a serious spinal cord injury. There can certainly be secondary health risks that could well become life-threatening. Immobility may lead to the development of conditions such as deep vein thrombosis. The individual may also encounter problems with their breathing as well as an increased likelihood of ulcers or infections of the urinary tract.
A severe spinal cord injury means that the individual is generally dependent on carers or family members to help them. This may lead to both financial hardship and mental health issues such as depression. The individual may not be able to earn a living as they once did, despite the recent advances in assistive technology and the willingness of companies to accommodate those with disabilities.
Those suffering from spinal cord injuries could face not just physical barriers that stop them going about their daily lives but negative perceptions or discrimination from those around them.
The costs of delivering treatment and care for spinal injuries can be huge, particularly in the early stages of medical intervention as well as later on when support continues to be needed. First year costs for treatment in the US average at nearly $200,000 but the lifetime cost can reach as high as $1.35 million.
There’s no doubt that the prevalence of spinal cord injuries is wider than many of us think. The impact on not just the individual but those supporting them is huge, particularly as they face the challenge of living their lives as fully as possible.
Central Cord Syndrome
Heterotopic Ossification and Spinal Cord Injuries
Lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries Explained
Partial Paralysis vs Full Paralysis After a Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal Cord Injury FAQs
Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries Explained
Degenerative Disc Disease Explained
Sacral Spine Injuries