Spex Seating for Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) involve damage to the nerves of the spinal canal. These nerves allow our brains to communicate with the rest of our bodies and include control of motor function and sensory perception, including those vital functions like breathing and blood pressure. An injury to the spinal cord blocks or disrupts these messages
The severity of SCI depends on the site of the injury on the spinal cord and the severity of the injury. Motor and sensory function is affected below the level of injury. A SCI at the level of the neck will result in tetraplegia (quadriplegia) which affects movement and sensation in all four limbs, the pelvic organs and muscles of the trunk. An SCI in the back will affect movement and sensation in the lower limbs, pelvic organs and possibly some lower trunk muscles. Injuries can be described as complete or incomplete SCI. Simply put, a complete SCI means no nerve messages are conveyed past the site of the injury, whereas incomplete SCI can have some messages passing through the site of injury.
There is a higher prevalence of SCI in young adults and males. Causes include trauma (such as road traffic accidents, sports related injuries, gunshot wounds), infection or disease. Additional damage can occur after the actual injury due to bleeding, inflammation and pressure on the spinal cord. Almost all persons with SCI will have neurological impairments, motor loss and sensory loss to a varying extent.
SCI can result in loss of muscle strength, sensation, body functions below the level of the injury (for example: respiratory function, bladder and bowel control, reduced sexual function). Muscles can atrophy from non-use, they can spasm and become tight (high tone/spasticity), be paralysed and relaxed (low tone). Individuals can experience sudden changes in their blood pressure, and potentially have autonomic hyperreflexia (sudden increase in blood pressure) which can be life-threatening. There are associated risks of further fractures after SCI (Gifre et al., 2014) and pressure related injuries due to immobility and reduced/lack of sensation over load-bearing body areas. Pain, fatigue, low mood and psychosocial changes are also common following SCI.