Your Care Instructions
A spinal cord injury occurs when a bone of the spine (vertebra) cuts or presses on the spinal cord. This can happen after a fall, car crash, or sports injury. It can also happen if something pierces the spinal cord. A spinal cord injury stops the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. The closer the injury is to the head, the more the body is affected.
A serious spinal cord injury in the middle of the back usually causes loss of use of the legs (paralysis). It also usually causes loss of feeling in the legs. Loss of use and feeling in the legs is called paraplegia.
First treatments for spinal cord injuries include preventing more damage to the spine and spinal cord. This can be done with braces, casts, straps, or surgery. Medicine may reduce swelling in the spinal cord. You may need surgery to remove bone, or to stabilize or straighten the spine.
Long-term rehabilitation includes exercises to strengthen muscles that still work. You will also get help learning how to use braces and other tools to do everyday tasks. Researchers are working on new treatments. Some medicines may help the spinal cord heal. Implanted devices may help restore lost function.
Realizing you are paralyzed is scary. You will feel many emotions and may need help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have signs of a common problem called autonomic dysreflexia and the symptoms do not go away after 20 minutes. These include:
- A pounding headache.
- A flushed face or red patches on your skin above the level of the spinal injury.
- Sweating above the level of the spinal injury.
- Slow heart rate.
- Cold, clammy skin above the level of the spinal injury.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from an incision.
- Pus draining from an incision.
- A fever.
- You need help with urination and bowel movements.
- You have cloudy or foul-smelling urine.
- You have pressure injuries.
- You feel hopeless and depressed.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter Z114 in the search box to learn more about "Spinal Cord Injury (Paraplegic): Care Instructions".