What is a spinal cord injury?
A spinal cord injury can occur when the spinal cord suffers trauma or damage from an event such as traffic or sporting accidents, a heavy fall, an explosion or a gunshot etc. It can also be related to a disease such as Spinal Bifida, Transverse Myelitis, and Polio. The injury can be caused if the spinal cord is partially or totally torn or crushed. It differs from a broken back or neck since these injuries are caused when one or more of your vertebrae are fractured or broken, and this typically won’t develop into a spinal cord injury.
An injured spinal cord could lead to loss of sensation and/or partial or total loss of movement in your legs, arms or trunk. The affected body parts will depend on which part of the sine suffered the injury. If total loss of sensation and movement occurs the injury is referred to as a complete spinal cord injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury refers to partial loss of sensation and movement. Spinal cord injuries can result in Paraplegia or Quadriplegia/Tetraplegia. Quadriplegia/Tetraplegia refers to a neck injury whereas Paraplegia refers to an injury in the thoracic spine and lumbar spine, which is the upper to middle-back.
If the nerve damage isn’t too severe the nerves may be able to be regenerated and your sensation and/or muscle function may be able to return to their functional level. However, a severe injury could mean the diaphragm and respiratory muscles are affected and the patient may need to breathe mechanically with a ventilator or diaphragmatic pacemaker. Spinal cord injuries can also cause muscle cramps and spasticity which caused the paralyzed muscles to cramp.
How Physiotherapy helps spinal cord injuries
Physiotherapy can help spinal cord-injury patients with cramping muscles as passive moment can help stretch the muscles. The goal of the Spectrum Physiotherapy team is to help patients maximize their recovery potential which will help them to also maximize their independence. Our physiotherapists will focus on your individual specific needs after making an assessment of your condition and discussing your aims and goals. We can then design a personalized and appropriate physiotherapy program to help you achieve them.
Your condition will depend on the severity and type of spinal cord injury suffered, such as incomplete or complete. You may be suffering from muscle weakness or paralysis, loss of balance and mobility, loss of your functional movement, poor posture, and difficulty in breathing. At Spectrum Physiotherapy we focus on the individual and create a treatment program which is tailored to your specific condition and needs.
Some helpful aspects of physiotherapy for spinal cord injuries may include stretching exercises to help maintain tendon and muscle length and/or to reduce muscle spasms. We can also provide you with strengthening and flexibility exercises which are designed to benefit your whole body. In addition, breathing exercises may be recommended as a way to help prevent chest infection and maximize your lung function. Posture and balance exercises are also possible since they can help reduce the pain that is associated with impaired balance and posture. These exercises will help with an individual’s transfer techniques for getting in and out of the car, bathtub, washroom, and wheelchair etc.
The team at Spectrum Physiotherapy will help improve your functional activities and can help you with walking exercises if you have enough power and muscle activity in your legs. Other forms of physiotherapy treatment for spinal cord injuries could include various types of electronic muscle stimulators and exercise equipment. Your independence can certainly be maximized with the right type of care and treatment at Spectrum during your recovery period.