It’s often the case that you don’t know much about an illness or a condition until, or if, it happens to affect you or someone you love, and spinal injuries are no different. Spinal cord injuries can be caused from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself. A traumatic spinal cord injury may arise from a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of your vertebrae.
Should you be affected by spinal injuries, you may find yourself seeking extra support and care and could feel overwhelmed by information on how to cope with this sudden shock to your life. Spinal injuries are serious and complex and each spinal injury is unique, affecting victims differently and for different lengths of time. A spinal injury may result in only temporary back pain, but at worst it can leave victims completely paralysed.
Here are some things you never knew about spinal injuries:
1. It’s hard to regulate body temperature
When a spinal injury occurs this might mean that the person has more difficulty warming up when they are cold and cooling down when they are hot. This is because the spinal cord is used to communicate between the brain and the body when temperatures change and without this function it can be hard to keep up.
2. People with paralysis can have sex
This is a question most asked when discussing paralysis or spinal injuries. People who are paralysed can still have and enjoy sex. For some, their injuries might compromise sensitivity and feeling, but research suggests that there are nerves associated with sexual pleasure that completely bypass the spinal cord.
3. More men suffer with spinal injuries than women
There is much speculation as to why this is, and some suggest that this could be as more men participate in fighting, sports and tend to be faster behind the wheel, but the truth is that there isn’t the scientific evidence to back up such theories as of yet.
According to Shepherd Center, a spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation centre, every year about 17,500 people in the United States sustain a spinal cord injury. That's 48 new injuries every day. Most of these people are injured in car accidents, falls, violence and sports-related accidents. The average age of newly injured patients is 42, and 81 percent of them are men.
4. Professionals won’t always have the answers
As every spinal injury is unique and individual to the person injured, you may find that you are unable to get the answers you are looking for from medical professionals all the time. While nurses, doctors and therapists will try their best to provide you with information, it's important to remember that it's impossible for them to know everything about spinal injuries.
Learning everything you can about successfully living with a spinal injury, the different seating options that are available, coping strategies, and staying up-to-date with ongoing research relating to different treatments and advancements can go a long way in aiding your individual recovery.
5. A spinal injury could mean you can’t cough
Spinal injuries affect the muscles in the walls of the chest, not just your ability to walk. Virtually everything becomes paralysed below the the spinal injury and according to BranandSpinalCord.org, “the abdominal and chest muscles can also be affected, resulting in difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing the chest.”
Sadly respiratory failure is one of the main causes of death among people suffering spinal cord injuries, since they cannot cough up phlegm when they are ill.
6. Legs can still move even when paralysed
The nervous system can still enable leg movement even after severe spinal injury. People with paralysis may find that their legs can shake, move, and spasm on their own at any time without the person’s control.
7. You could be less hairy
Most people with a spinal injury notice that their hair thins, or that they lose hair a few years after their injuries. This is because research suggests that the spinal cord connects the rate of body hair growth with something in the brain that provides feedback to the hair follicles. They are not sure why, but something about spinal cord injuries often leads to less body hair on the head and elsewhere.
8. People with spinal injuries can still do sports
Many people living with paralysis play adapted sports and can become very good at them. Even with a spinal injury, it’s important to remain active, and sometimes physical activity can even help those who are paralysed to gain their ability to walk back; under the guidance of professionals.