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Spinal injuries: The impact on your life now and in the future

When you fell, you heard a horrible snap and knew something was wrong. You weren't alone, so the people around you made sure you didn't move and called for emergency help immediately. The nearest hospital to you at the time was still at least several miles away, and there was a time delay in getting the help you needed.

You knew something was wrong when you noticed you couldn't feel much below your hips. You wanted to get up and check that you could walk, but you knew that could make things worse. After going to the hospital, you know that you have a serious spinal injury that may -- or may not -- heal.

There are several things that could happen after an injury like yours. Here are three ways that a spinal injury can impact your life.

1. Chronic pain

When a spinal cord injury isn't complete, it means that the nerves can still travel across an injured area, at least in some manner. This often leads to pain, since the nerves misfire and send the brain unusual signals. It is common for patients of incomplete spinal injuries to have exaggerated reflexes and spasms, pain or stinging around the injury and altered sensations. You may have trouble feeling heat, cold or touch.

2. Weakness or paralysis

A complete spinal injury does lead to paralysis in most cases. Paralysis occurs because the nerves cannot connect below the point of injury. As a result, there may be no feeling, or only very limited feeling, below the point of injury. Weakness, muscle wasting, difficulty coughing, breathing or moving are all potential symptoms of paralysis.

3. Ongoing medical care

After a spinal cord injury, it's normal to need ongoing medical care. You may struggle with many things, from being unable to tell when you're injured to feeling chronic pain all the time. It's through medical treatment that you can begin to control symptoms like pain or weakness, muscle-wasting or a loss of bladder or bowel control. Technology and medical devices may help you avoid continuing pain or a reduction in your muscle mass.

Spinal cord injuries are significant and put your very life at risk. Extreme pain and pressure are a sign that your spinal cord has suffered a serious injury. If you realize that you've been hurt, immediate medical care is necessary. With immediate treatment, there's a possibility of reducing the extent of the injury by eliminating swelling and complications that could worsen your condition.

Spinal cord injuries can leave you in a painful, difficult state. It's important to seek medical care for as long as you need it.

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