Spinal Cord Injury Program
Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury is damage to any part of the spinal cord or the nerves at the end of the spinal canal. As this is an extremely sensitive part of the human body and a complex one that impacts all aspects of your life – physical and mental, an injury here can be very dangerous even potentially causing permanent disabilities. While injuries can be treated with surgical intervention, in almost all cases of spinal cord injuries, rehabilitation and pain management are key to a person’s ability to lead a productive and independent life.
Causes of spinal cord injuries
- Road traffic accidents
- Falls – especially in older persons
- Sports injuries such as diving in shallow water
- Certain diseases such as cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of the spinal cord also can cause spinal cord injuries.
symptoms of spinal cord injuries
The first thing to note if you suspect a spinal cord injury is if your spine has suffered any sort of impact recently – whether directly or indirectly. The site of the impact and/or pain are also key indicators. The result of the impact and the amount of pain or your ability to control your limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on two factors – 1. the place of the injury along your spinal cord and 2. the severity of injury to the spinal cord.
Spinal cord injuries of any kind may result in one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Extreme back pain or pressure in your neck, head or back
- Weakness or Numbness i.e. loss of coordination or paralysis in any part of your body or any tingling or loss of sensation in your hands, fingers, feet or toes
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Difficulty with balance and walking
- Impaired breathing after injury
In any case, when you suspect a spinal cord injury, please get immediate emergency medical attention. A relevant team of doctors will assess you to identify the best possible course of treatment which may or may not include surgery, but rehabilitation will always be required in such cases.
Spinal Cord Rehabilitation
Spinal cord injuries typically require rehabilitation team members from various specialities who should work together to get you the best possible result. This team will include a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a nurse to manage medications and any wounds, a clinical psychologist to assist with the trauma, a dietitian and a doctor who will oversee all the medical care.
During the various stages of rehabilitation, therapists will focus on maintenance and strengthening of muscle function, redeveloping fine motor skills, and learning adaptive techniques to accomplish your ADLs (Activities of daily life). Along the recovery journey, you and your family members should be educated on the effects of a spinal cord injury and how to prevent complications, and you should be given advice on rebuilding your life and increasing your quality of life and independence.
The duration of rehabilitation and recovery vary depending entirely on the severity of the injury and also how fast a patient start intensive rehabilitation services post injury. The longer one waits, the bigger the risk of permanent disability or debility sinking in.
Choosing Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Programme
Often, life after a major medical event can be quite challenging. The needs and priorities of everyday lives could change to such an extent that we feel like being in a totally new avatar. At this stage, beyond the quick-fix solutions on internet, one will need specialized care to resume to normal lifestyles. Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) is perhaps one of the most serious orthopedic injuries that require extremely good care and recuperation support. In order to prevent secondary complications, maximize physical functioning and reintegration into community, a structured rehabilitation programme is recommended to those who sustain Spinal cord injuries (SCIs).
Rehabilitation programmes for spinal cord injuries can be of several types. These are mostly offered in hospitals, standalone clinics and homecare services. The levels of care provided by each of them could be varied and different from one another. Choosing the one that is suited for your condition might be tricky. Spinal Cord Injuries can be either complete or incomplete in nature. Complete injuries lead to permanent loss of the ability of spinal cord to send messages to the brain. At the same time, incomplete injuries leave only partial damage to the spinal cord and some motor and sensory functions remain. Rehabilitation for both these types of injuries is distinct from one another. Based on a patient’s medical history and the extent of damage, the ideal rehabilitation programme for effective recovery is recommended.
The following are factors which guide you to choose the right type of Spinal Cord Rehabilitation programme:
- Experience of the rehabilitation facility in handling similar type of injuries
- Outcome measures or functional improvements of patients who were discharged directly to home
- Multidisciplinary Spinal Cord Injury – SCI rehabilitation team of certified professionals comprising of doctors, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, skilled nurses, dietitians etc. to oversee the rehabilitation programme
- The capacity of the facility to handle any medical emergencies
- Positive environment of the facility (interiors and nature of staff)
- Ratio of caregiver to patients
- Cost, proximity to home or option for availing residential care as follow up treatment
Continuity of care is an integral component of every recovery journey, especially in the context of traumatic injuries. Therefore, instead of choosing the first rehabilitation programme you come across, consider the above listed factors to have a detailed discussion with your care provider. Always remember, working with the right recovery partner will determine the quality of life after Spinal Cord Injuries – SCIs.