Spinal cord injuries (SCI) are damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves, causing a loss in function, such as mobility or feeling.
These injuries are commonly caused by trauma involving motor vehicle accidents, falls, diving and acts of violence. They may also be work or sports-related. Importantly, a person with a spinal injury doesn’t have to sever their spinal cord to experience a loss of functioning. The damage to the spinal cord is caused by compression or bruising.
A person with a spinal injury may experience a loss of function below the neck, known as quadriplegia or a loss of function below the chest, called paraplegia,
Other health complications from a spinal injury include urinary tract infections, loss of bladder and bowel function, pressure ulcers, low blood pressure, fractures, deep vein thrombosis, muscle stiffness, heart and lung problems and depression.
Up to 18 months after the injury, the swelling of the spinal cord is reduced which may allow some function to return. Unfortunately, only a very small number of people with a spinal cord injury recover all function.
Spinal cord injuries are life-changing and highly emotional. Rehabilitation, based on the injury, situation and person's physical and mental health will help a person with a spinal injury in regaining their self-confidence and learning to adapt with their disability. The rehabilitation team may consist of an occupational therapist, physiatrist, physiotherapist, dietician, psychologist, speech therapist and social worker among others.