Spinal Cord Injury And The Musculoskeletal System

Spinal Cord Injury And The Musculoskeletal System

Chronic total spinal cord injury (SCI) brings on secondary musculoskeletal weakening that ultimately can be life threatening. Without normal use, paralyzed muscle rapidly atrophies, bringing about a catabolic state, poor cosmesis, and increased risk for secondary impediment.

Problems associated with spinal cord injury include:

  • Decreased or absent sensation below level of spinal cord injury
  • Decreased or absent motor function (movement) below level of spinal cord injury
  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction
  • Diminished sexual function
  • Reduced control of body temperature
  • Chronic pain

Physiologically, paralyzed muscle steadily starts weakening, and this affects the ability of the muscle to accept loads. In addition, muscles that are paralyzed have reduced oxidative enzymes, and suffer from a lot of fatigue. Early loss of tiredness resistance is likely due to damaged excitation-contraction pairing of the muscle. Long-term losses in fatigue resistance may be due to excitation-contraction coupling and decrease in oxidative ability of the muscle.

Looking after paralyzed muscle tissue may end up being an important means for improving general health and overall wellbeing of people who have suffered from spinal cord injury. Without regular muscular contraction, bone demineralization occurs rapidly, usually at the rate of 2 to 4 percent per month after spinal cord injury. This demineralization makes the bones weak, and causes fractures easily. Studies have shown that if muscles are stimulated through electronic means, it has an effect on the bone mineral density. However, at the same time once demineralization occurs, care should be taken when stimulating certain muscles as it can increase the risk of fracture.

As a rule, therefore, an injury to the spinal cord inadvertently results in a severe effect on the musculoskeletal system. As such, there is loss of movement in places which previously to the incident were movable.

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Spinal Cord Injury And The Musculoskeletal System