In honor of Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month, I wanted to give a general overview of what a spinal cord injury is and some facts. I’m no doctor, just a fellow SCI member wanting to educate and share what I’ve learned.
A spinal cord injury is by definition damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal.
Damage to the spinal cord often results in paralysis but that depends on where exactly you broke your spine and what your recovery process is like and how it heals, etc. One thing to remember is that every spinal cord injury is different even if the injury level is the same!
Levels to the spine you ask? Yes! The spine has four sections which are then broken up into levels:
Cervical - Level C1 to C7
Thoracic - Level T1 to T12
Lumbar - Level L1 to L5
Sacral - Level S1 to S5
Each of these levels controls a part of your body and so when damaged you may lose said control over those parts of your body. I’m not gonna get into which level affects what because like I said earlier every spinal cord injury is different therefore I just feel like explaining it is kind of pointless. But worth researching for a general overview! Instead I can explain my injury and some more facts about SCI.
I broke my spine at the C4 vertebrae meaning basically I broke my neck! By definition and what doctors told me, I should have been paralyzed from the neck down meaning no hand or finger movement, no arm movement, no lower extremity movement, and scientifically speaking, I should have never been able to breathe on my own again. However, I regained some function. I’m still a quadriplegic but I’m no longer paralyzed from the neck down.
A quadriplegic is anyone who has paralysis or loss of sensation in all four limbs. For me, I have no movement or sensation in my legs, in my hands or fingers, and my arm function is limited. my biceps are pretty decent but my triceps are iffy. And if we want to get further into it, my right side is weaker than my left side and the function that I have differs from side to side. For me I’m pretty sure it’s because my C4 vertebrae broke/cracked/snapped/I don’t know diagonally. Or maybe it’s just the way it healed or my recovery. There’s a lot of different factors that play into the function one may gain back.
I know I was pretty lucky with the amount of function I gained back and also being able to breathe on my own again. C4 affects your breathing and it did a number on me for sure but I’m grateful I got my voice back!
Now I feel like I can leave y’all with some facts about SCI’s!
•According to most research, most spinal cord injuries happen because of a vehicle accident, followed by falls, violence, sports related injury, and medical / surgery related.
•Not everyone with a spinal cord injury is paralyzed.
•A spinal cord injury is more than just not walking. Some secondary conditions include:
- Increased UTI’s
- Muscle spasms
- Pressure sores
- Chronic pain
- Respiratory issues
- Bowel and bladder management
- Autonomic Dysreflexia
- Body temperature
- Nerve pain
And lastly, the most important fact in my opinion, is
•No two spinal cord injuries are the same!
No two disabilities are the same! This is important to remember because even though you can get a general overview when you research one’s spinal cord injury/disability, you really can understand better when you listen to those of us who actually live with the spinal cord injury/disability.
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