An Overview of Spinal Cord Injuries | San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital


Hi, my name is Dorothy, and I work at San
Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital. I am an occupational therapist here. I’m going to be presenting just a brief overview
of spinal cord injury and some of the things that come along with having a spinal cord
injury. As a brief overview, the spinal cord actually
is part of the central nervous system, which includes the brain and the spinal cord as
the main communication centers for the body. Starting with the brain, it sends messages
down through the spinal cord and from the spinal cord up to the brain where things can
be interpreted. There’s two components that we look at for that, from the brain going down is the motor component. “I want to feed myself.” My brain tells my arm what to do, grab the
fork, bend my elbow, it lets my wrist know what to do. It tells my body what to do. Then there’s the sensory component, where
the body is telling information back up to the brain. So, if a fly lands on your arm, you know just
to kind of do a little flick or just move it, you know its a very light touch not something
dangerous. If a spark flies off of a campfire and touches
your arm, you know that its going to hurt, but your body doesn’t know that. Your brain is what tells it, so that the spark
hits you, the message goes up to the brain, the brain says “that is dangerous, move out
of the way” or do something more drastic. So the brain talks to the body and the body
talks back up to the brain. And there are different types of spinal cord
injuries. It might be trauma from an injury, a fall,
a shooting, a stabbing, a car accident. It could be from a tumor that’s blocking the
messages that get from the brain to the body or the body to the brain. It can be infection that causes just a damage
to that spinal cord area. Now if you think about it, people know about
paralysis that happens in the arms, if the message cannot get from the brain it goes
down through, it sends messages out to my arms, to my legs. The higher the injury is, the less messages
go down through the body, and you’re more paralyzed. The arms, everything would be paralyzed. The further down the injury is on the spinal
cord, the more messages can get through, maybe you could move your arms, but you can’t move
your legs. But we don’t think about the other things
spinal cord injury can affect. It affects how you go to the bathroom. It affects the muscles that affect your breathing. It can also affect your regulation of your
heat and your body systems, so people don’t sweat the same way. Lots of things that you don’t think about,
besides the paralysis itself. But if you think about it, most of the time
people think its the limb that’s injured, but its really not. It’s like having a telephone cord. If you have a telephone and you cut the cord,
there’s nothing wrong with the phone. If you put a new cord, the phone will work. But you can’t put a new spinal cord into a
person. Science is coming along, they’re doing the
best they can to see how they can help that to become better, and injuries are a little
bit less traumatic than they used to be because of the good education that’s being given to
the community, to first responders and all of the medical advances. There’s hope out there for people with spinal
cord injury, but we do treat patients with all different types of symptoms here at San Joaquin
Valley Rehab Hospital.

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