The Spinal Cord after injury

Injuries to the spinal cord do not usually cut through the cord. However, they do cause damage to the thin, fibrous nerve fibres within the spinal column.

Spinal cord injury due to traumatic accidents may be caused by the stretching of or pinching of the cord where vertebrae have been displaced, or by direct damage to the cord by fragments of fractured bone. Non-traumatic spinal cord injury can be caused by pressure on the spinal cord from disease (cysts or tumours), or any interruption of local blood supply. 


Changes after the initial injury

The most obvious effect of spinal cord injury is the reduced ability to move and feel things below the level of injury. There are a range of additional complications that occur as a result of spinal cord injury, for example spinal cord injury affects function in internal organs as well as the limbs.  


Improvement and Recovery

All spinal cord injuries are different and what happens with one person does not necessarily happen with another. The nerves in the spinal cord are very delicate and when they are injured they are sometimes not very good at repairing themselves. Recovery depends on how seriously the spinal cord has been damaged.

Unfortunately total recovery from spinal cord injury is very rare. Complete spinal cord injuries are more severe and the more time that passes after the injury the less chance there is of significant recovery. People with incomplete injuries generally recover more than those with complete injuries but it is difficult to know exactly how much recovery there will be or how long it will take to happen.  Unfortunately, at present there is no cure for spinal cord injury but there are many doctors and researchers around the world looking for ways to help the nerves to heal themselves and recover.  

Information provided by Dr Angela Gall, Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine

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