What You Need to Know About Traumatic Spinal Cord Injuries: Part 1

There are 86,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in Canada and by 2030, projections estimate there will be 35,000 more. Given that spinal cord injuries do not discriminate and can affect anyone, it is important to understand what is involved.

Anatomy of the Spinal Cord

The spinal cord stretches from the base of the brain to the bottom of the back and is home to millions of nerve fibers that permit the body to perform basic functions such as breathing, moving, and feeling.

When the spinal cord is damaged as a result of a traumatic injury, the nerves lose their ability to relay messages, resulting in paralysis.

What Causes Traumatic Spinal Injury?

Traumatic spinal injury can be caused by a range of events including motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, sports injuries, assault, or from impact. The type and severity of injury sustained depends on which part of the spine was affected and to what degree.

Types of Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries are often considered to be “one of the greatest survivable catastrophes experienced by a human being.” According to the Rick Hansen Institute, Canadians with traumatic spinal cord injuries may expect a reduced life expectancy by 15 to 30 years and can contribute to an estimated $2.7 billion per year in injury-related costs.

Traumatic spinal cord injury can present itself in several forms including:

Paraplegia- Complete or partial loss of movement and sensation to the torso and legs. Complete paraplegia refers to instances where there an individual has lost the ability to perform voluntary movement and no longer has any sensation

Quadriplegia- Also referred to as tetraplegia, quadriplegia refers to the partial or complete paralysis of the body from the neck down. As is the case with paraplegia, complete quadriplegia or tetraplegia is defined by a total lack of voluntary movement and sensation.

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