Impulses from the brain are what allow us to perceive the world around us. by touch and movement of our bodies, we also carry out basic roles that we aren’t usually aware of or already in control of – including breathing, digesting food and circulating blood. While the brain is responsible for producing these impulses, the spinal cord is what truly transports and delivers them to the various parts of the body. When this cord is damaged, there are often extreme consequences, including paralysis.
Paralysis involves a complete loss of muscle function, and often involves a loss of mobility and/or sensation. Whether total paralysis will occur depends on whether a cord injury is classified as complete or incomplete. In an incomplete spinal cord injury, only some of the cord is damaged. for example, the spinal cord’s front, back, side or center may be damaged, while the rest of the cord in that area may be unaffected.
When incomplete spinal injuries occur, a person may retain function on one side of the body but not the other, or they may have sensation in parts of the body but nevertheless experience a loss of mobility. This is because some of the impulses from the brain can nevertheless be delivered to the appropriate part of the body. In a complete spinal cord injury, the complete area of the spine is damaged. The person loses all sensation and movement in all areas below the site of the injury. These types of complete injuries are the types that usually cause paralysis.
The portion of the body that becomes paralyzed because of a spine injury depends mainly on which part of the cord was damaged.
The area from the top of the spine to the neck is the cervical spine. The most harsh paralysis occurs when there are complete injuries to this area of the spinal cord. People with these types of injuries are usually quadriplegic. If the injury is close to the beginning of the cord, the person may already be unable to breathe on his or her own.
The thoracic spine protects the area of the spinal cord that extends from the neck to the chest. When this vicinity is damaged, the injury victim is typically considered paraplegic. Injuries in the upper area of the thoracic spine consequence in a loss of mobility in the legs, a loss of control of the abdominal muscles, and limited trunk control. Injuries to the lower thoracic spine typically leave the individual with good control over their abdominal muscles and their trunk.
The vertebrae from the chest to the pelvis are known as the lumbar spine and the sacral spine. Spinal cord injuries in these areas consequence in the least loss of function. The person loses some control of the hips and legs, but does not experience a complete loss of mobility in any area. The injured individual can often rule a comparatively normal life.
Both incomplete and complete spinal cord injuries can have a profound impact on your overall quality of life, but paralysis is especially devastating since it can consequence in a loss of independence.