Paralysis occurs when a person loses the function of one or more muscles in their body or the loss of feeling in an area of their body. Paralysis is normally caused when the nervous system becomes damaged and a person is no longer able to move at least one part of their body. The original Greek word meant disabling of the nerves, which is a very accurate description.
Paralysis can occur when:
- The spinal cord becomes bruised
- The vertebrae breaks
- Fragments of bone get lodged in the spinal cord
- Fragments of metal become lodged in the spinal cord
- The head, neck or back are pulled, pressed, or compressed while twisting
When the body becomes paralyzed, the following may happen:
- The brain may be able to recognize touch and other activities in the body; however, it may not be able to respond appropriately due to the injury of the spinal cord.
- The brain may not be able to send or receive any signals from a part of the body because of the injury to the spinal cord.
Types of Paralysis
There are four primary types of paralysis. Each one affects various parts of the body. The four types of paralysis are as follows:
- Monoplegia: is paralysis to one area of the body, usually a limb. People with monoplegia can still move and feel the rest of their body.
- Hemiplegia: is paralysis to an arm and leg on the same side of the body.
- Paraplegia: is paralysis below the waist. People with paraplegia cannot feel anything below their waist, but they can still use their upper body.
- Quadriplegia: is full paralysis below the neck. Quadriplegia may also be referred to as tetraplegia. It usually includes the loss of sensory and motor function, which means that sensation and control are affected or lost.
Understanding the Spinal Cord
The cervical region of the spinal cord is a person’s neck and includes vertebrae C1 through C8. Injuries high on the cervical spine are more dangerous and life-threatening than injuries further down the spine. Injury to the high cervical spine area usually results in quadriplegia. The most severe injuries occur in C1 through C4.
Your doctor may call your low cervical spine injury by a shortened name such as:
- C5 Injury
- C6 Injury
- C7 Injury
- C8 Injury
The thoracic region is the upper back and includes T1-T12. An injury to any one of these will affect a person’s torso and certain parts of their arms. T1 through T5 correspond with nerves that affect the upper chest, mid back and abdominal muscles. Paraplegia may be present. The affected person may be able to use a manual wheelchair and even drive a modified vehicle. Some people with T1 through T5 injuries may be able to stand in a frame or walk with braces.
T6 through T12 injuries correspond with the lower abdomen and back muscles. You may have normal upper body movement and be able to easily control the balance in your upper body. The affected person may have no control over the bowel or bladder, but learn to live independently with special equipment.
The lumbar region in the lower back contains L1 through L5, which controls the hips and legs. Lumbar injuries usually result in some degree of function lost in the hips and legs. The affected person may have no control over their bowels or bladder, but should be able to learn to live independently with special equipment. They may be able to walk with braces or use a manual wheelchair.
The sacral region is also the lower back and S1 through S5 controls the groin, toes, and certain parts of the legs. Sacral injuries may lead to some loss of function in the hips and legs. The affected person may have no control over bowel or bladder, but will be able to manage on their own with special equipment. They will likely be able to walk, but may require rehabilitation.
What Can Cause Paralysis?
While there are countless types of events which can cause a spinal cord injury, some of the most common include:
- Medical conditions like strokes and cerebral palsy;
- Motor vehicle accidents: cars, motorcycles, ATV accidents, trains, bicycles, etc.;
- Falls: falling down stairs, falling in a parking lot, falling in the shower;
- Sporting injuries: knocked down by another player, a severe blow to the back;
- Domestic violence: pushed down the stairs, shoved into a wall or onto the floor, hit in the back by an object with a lot of force;
- Gunshots: shot in the spine or fragments lodge in the spine;
- Assaults: hit with an object in the back, body twisted by attacker;
- Industrial accidents: machinery accidents, workplace falls, etc.
A person who cannot feel a part of their body or who cannot move at all should call an ambulance and be taken to the nearest emergency room. A doctor will be able to perform tests to see if the paralysis is permanent or temporary.
The following are some common diagnostic tests which aid in the evaluation of paralysis:
- Spinal X-rays
- Myelogram: spinal x-ray after a dye is injected
- CT Scan or MRI
- Electromyography: test that checks muscles and nerves
- Nerve Conduction Studies
Complications from Paralysis
A paralyzed person may be affected by a variety of complications. Complications from paralysis generally depend on the type and severity of spinal injury involved.
- Loss of control with the bladder and bowels
- Breathing problems
- Blood pressure issues: either high or low
- Sweating even when not hot
- Difficulty maintaining a normal temperature
- Sexual functionality is affected
- Pressure ulcers: from not being able to move and switch positions
Statistics from the Reeve Foundation
The Reeve Foundation is a wonderful place to find information about and resources for paralysis. Founders Christopher and Dana Reeve had first-hand experience living with paralysis when Christopher became paralyzed after falling off of his horse. His first and second vertebrae (C1 and C2) were shattered in the accident. He was paralyzed from the neck down. Here are a few statistics from the Reeve Foundation:
- Four out of five people living with paralysis are male
- Half of the people with paralysis have an injury to the cervical area, while a third are in the thoracic area and the rest in the lumbar region.
Depending on the severity of the paralysis, people may be able to live independently and have a life of quality. There are many devices that a person can use to assist them throughout their day, including wheelchairs and communication devices.
Obtaining Financial Help For Accident Related Paralysis
The Dixon Injury Firm in St. Louis can help you gather the evidence you need to get the compensation you deserve for your spinal injury. Don’t settle for less than the best representation if you or someone you love is paralyzed. Paralysis injuries require significant compensation to replace wages, pay for medical expenses, and help maintain the best quality of life possible. Get legal backup by calling The Dixon Injury Firm at 314-409-7060.