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About Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

A healthy spinal cord is central to a fully functioning human body. It enables the person to move, to feel touch, pressure and temperature, and to control their bodily functions. It is essentially the go between for the brain to the rest of the body – the telephone cable for the neurological messages that enable a person to live as an able-bodied individual. An injury to this ‘cable’ therefore, usually results in dire consequences.

Many incidences of SCI occur through direct trauma, such as a fall or an act of violence – where the spinal bones crush, bruise or cut the fleshy cord they surround. SCI can also occur via so called ‘non- traumatic’ causes, such as viruses, infections or haemorrhage within the cord.

Problems for life

A spinal cord injury is permanent and disabling. The severity of the disability varies from victim to victim, dependent upon the area that the injury was sustained and/or the extent of the damage. Most SCI’s will result in paralysis, loss of sensation and lack of control over bodily functions, and the need to rely on a wheelchair and other adaptive aids. Many victims also have to rely on strong daily medications, such as painkillers and anti-spasmodics. Post SCI, the majority of victims will experience loss of independence, and this is ongoing for many. Sexual dysfunction, stress and depression are also commonplace, and each can contribute to extremely low self-esteem. Added complications can include the following:-

Severe pain at and/or below the site of injury Respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular and joint problems Muscle atrophy (wastage)
Severe and debilitating spasms in the extremities Respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular and joint problems Victims are also at a significantly increased risk of numerous ailments, a few of which are listed below
Blood clots Pressure sore Urinary tract infections
Diabetes Osteoporosis Contractures
  • Severe pain at and/or below the site of injury
  • Respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular and joint problems
  • Muscle atrophy (wastage)
  • Severe and debilitating spasms in the extremities
  • Victims are also at a significantly increased risk of numerous ailments, a few of which are listed below:-
  • Blood clots
  • Pressure sore
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Contractures

Due to sexual dysfunction after injury, the vast majority of men affected by SCI cannot conceive children without intrusive medical intervention. Many victims can never return to education or employment, and suffer subsequent family and relationship breakdowns. An individual’s lifespan is also shortened after sustaining a spinal cord injury. All injuries will denote an extended stay in hospital for stabilisation surgery and/or injury recovery, usually followed by a long period at a rehabilitation centre. Depending on their physical ability, some SCI victims be taught to live fairly independently, but the vast majority will require lifelong assistance with everyday living. An individual with a high cervical injury will more than likely require the assistance of a ventilator, to enable them to breath.

Age of Injury

Spinal Cord injuries are usually referred to as either acute or chronic. An ‘acute’ injury is a newly acquired injury. Opinions about when a person becomes a ‘chronic’ injury vary, but around 14 days is realistic.

Due to continual secondary damage around the injured site for some time after injury, acute and chronic solutions will consist of different approaches. A number of research efforts are looking to benefit acute injuries only. Inevitably, each new injury will become an old injury, so Walkoncemore is solely interested in helping to find a cure for chronic Spinal Cord Injury, thus helping every afflicted person.

Anatomy of the Spine

The spinal column is made up of 33 individual bones termed ‘vertebrae’, and each is stacked on top of one another. Encased within the length of these bones is the spinal cord. The column is composed of 4 main sections. The cervical spine refers to the neck region, the upper to mid back the thoracic spine, the mid to lower back the Lumber spine and just above the Coccyx is the sacral section.

The Area and Extent of Injury

Generally speaking, the higher the injury, the greater the physical impairment to the individual. If a person sustains an injury to their neck, they are referred to as ‘Quadriplegic’ or ‘Tetraplegic’. An injury nearer the top of the neck will either result in instant death or paralysis from the neck down with the reliance on a ventilator for breathing. Those who sustain lower neck injuries may have limited use of the arms if any, and no use of the fingers. If an individual sustains an injury to their back, they become a ‘paraplegic’. Most injuries to this area will result in paralysis from the chest down.

A very severe injury will result in a ‘complete’ lesion, where no sensory (feeling) or motor (movement) messages can travel to the body from the brain below the injury site. A more ‘incomplete’ injury may mean some movement and feeling tracts are left intact, yet the body will rarely be anywhere near fully functional.

The spinal cord is a mysterious and complex organ, explaining perhaps why some injured persons can walk, albeit with difficulty, yet cannot feel a thing from the chest down, nor control their bowel or bladder.

Walkoncemore aims to help people affected by this sudden and catastrophic injury on the journey to making their injuries short-term, and their prognosis a good one.