The spinal cord must be healthy and intact for the body to function properly. When there are any issues with it, the area below the spot where there is damage might not work properly. With many spinal cord injuries, the chance that they will heal is small, especially if it is a complete injury.
There are several things that come into the picture when a spinal cord injury occurs. Each point can impact the amount of healing and the amount of long-term damage that will occur. Here are a few points that affect almost every spinal cord injury:
Injuries are likely going to seem worse at first
When you are first injured, many things happen to the spinal cord. It can swell, become inflamed and have a chemical reaction that can cause additional damage. Because of this trifecta along with the initial injury, there is a good chance that your injuries are going to seem worse in the days after the accident.
As the inflammation and swelling reduce, you might start to notice that the severity of the effects mitigate. You might start to regain some use of affected body parts, but this is more likely in an incomplete injury instead of in a complete one.
Complete and incomplete injuries
Spinal cord injuries are grouped into two distinct types — complete and incomplete. These have to do with what, if any, function and feeling is present in the body below the level of the injury.
A complete injury, which is considered the worse of the two types, means that there isn’t any function or any feeling below the location of the injury. For example, a person with an injury in the upper cervical region wouldn’t have any function or feeling from the neck down.
An incomplete injury does leave some feeling or function below the level of the injury. These injuries are usually associated with a better outcome than complete injuries.
Prompt treatment is vital
Delayed treatment for spinal cord injuries can lead to a worse outcome than what might have occurred with prompt treatment. In some cases, being able to cool the spinal cord and checking for blood clots so they can be treated quickly might be beneficial. Some people may need steroids, anti-inflammatory medications and others to help manage the injury.
Getting treatment as soon as possible after the injury can help patients to have better outcomes. This is why going to the hospital directly from the scene of the accident is advisable.