Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries occur when a person experiences a significant spinal injury that either dislocates or fractures vertebrae. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, roughly 12,000 new cases occur every year in the United States. When these types of injuries happen, nerve fibers called axons become damaged. Axons are important because they transmit brain signals along the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries are identified as being either complete or incomplete. With an incomplete injury, the person still has some degree of function below the point of injury. This may include the ability to move limbs or feel other parts of the body. If a complete injury has occurred, the person has no functioning below the injury point.
Paraplegia is a commonly known spinal cord injury that allows for functioning of the arms and hands. Quadriplegia (or tetraplegia) occurs when an injury results in paralysis of all the limbs.
Treating a spinal cord injury
When it comes to treating a spinal cord injury, immediate intervention is crucial. This includes seeking emergency care as soon as possible. Aggressive rehabilitation is another key component in recovery. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a steroid called methylprednisolone can minimize nerve cell damaged if administered within eight hours of injury.
For some, rehabilitation and physical therapy can help improve their condition. Emotional counseling can also improve quality of life. In a 2014 study by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, electrical stimulation helped four patients with paraplegia restore voluntary movement in their legs. This occurred after years of paralysis. The novel approach represents a game changer in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.
Another 2013 study put out by the Kennedy Krieger Institute also found long-term functional electrical stimulation of the legs to be beneficial for people with spinal cord injuries. Researchers focused specifically on the benefits of cycling.
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