The diverse effects of a spinal cord injury

Every person who suffers a spinal cord injury has an individualized path to recovery. In each case, however, he or she must undergo months or even years of physical and occupational therapy to regain function.

Review the potential impact of a spinal cord injury on various body systems.

Compromised mobility and sensation

Depending on the location and extent of damage to the spine, a person may experience partial or total paralysis. A complete injury causes the loss of all mobility and sensation at the injury site and below. With an incomplete spinal cord injury, some sensation remains below the injured area. Muscle spasms and issues with reflexes can also occur.

Spinal cord injuries often result in chronic pain, which can be difficult to control. Some people experience a limited ability to feel pressure, cold and hot sensations.

Functional impact

Many people who have a spinal cord injury experience limited fertility and sexual sensitivity. They may also experience sexual dysfunction and bladder or bowel incontinence.

Some spinal cord injuries impact the lungs. This can cause complications that involve breathing and coughing.

Chronic illness

According to the World Health Organization, spinal cord injury causes many dangerous complications. These include pressure ulcers, osteoporosis, infection and deep vein thrombosis.

Spinal cord injuries do not cause immediate symptoms. Any serious injury involving the head or neck, such as a workplace fall or auto accident, should receive emergency medical attention. Damage to the spinal cord can have a significant impact on almost every aspect of a person’s daily life. However, treatment within 18 months of the injury can help restore some level of function in many cases.