What is the Spinal Cord?

The spinal cord enables your brain to communicate with your body. Up and down the spinal cord, every second of your life, messages are sent to keep you on the move. When a spinal cord injury occurs, communication may be severed, resulting in a loss of function. What does SCI mean? SCI stands for ‘spinal cord injury’. It can happen due to trauma or illness and means that the spinal cord has been severed or damaged, either completely or incompletely, resulting in paralysis from the point of injury/damage down.

What is meant by the word paralysis?

Paralysis refers to the inability to control movement or to detect sensations such as touch and temperature. What is the difference between paraplegia & quadriplegia? Paraplegia means that a person is paralysed from the chest or waist down. Quadriplegia involves the upper trunk and arms too.

Why do some people say ‘quadriplegic’ instead of ‘tetraplegic’?

In the UK and Europe, it’s more usual for tetraplegic (from the Greek ‘tetra’ meaning ‘four’) to be used, while in the States, the Latin word for four (‘quad’) is the norm. Both quadriplegic and tetraplegic mean the same thing; that a person is paralysed in all four limbs. My friend has the same level of injury as me but he can feel his legs and I can’t. Why? The amount of movement and sensation you have will depend on which parts of the spinal cord have been damaged. Those parts of your friend’s spinal cord responsible for transmitting sensory information have been saved while those responsible for controlling movement may have been damaged. What is the difference between a complete and incomplete injury? Complete’ describes injuries where there is effectively no transmission of signals across a spinal cord lesion, with no voluntary control of movement or perception of sensations below the lesion. ‘Incomplete’ injuries are those where some of the pathways across the spinal cord lesion are undamaged. The outcome can be extremely variable and depends on which parts of the spinal cord are damaged.

Can you recover from a spinal cord injury?

Those experiencing partial injury or damage to the spinal cord may recover some feeling or movement following the wearing off of the initial ‘spinal shock’. However, there is currently no treatment that can repair a complete spinal lesion and so the effects are permanent.

Is there a cure for SCI?

Most body parts and organs can repair themselves after they are injured. However the central nervous system cannot. Attempting to repair the damage caused by a spinal cord injury is a puzzle that has not yet been solved. Nevertheless the damage caused by an SCI can be reduced by limiting immediate cell death and reducing the inflammation of the injured cord.