Written by Victoria Tan, Class of 2016
The spinal cord may look like a single piece, but it consists of a column of nerves protected by myelin sheath and secured by 31 vertebrae extending down the length of the spine. Medical pathology of the spinal cord and its related dysfunctions can be classified into 4 sections and 1 sub-part: Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacral and Coccygeal region. Implications include nervous, musculoskeletal, sympathetic and internal conditions.
Cervical impairments can lead to: loss of function or sensation in the arms and legs and compromise cognitive abilities such as memory loss, upper body conditions such as headache, blurred vision, tinnitus, thyroid, and calcification of the spinal process etc.
Thoracic impairments can lead to an array of ailments including: breathing and cardiac complications such as bronchitis, palpitations, asthma, high blood pressure, bronchitis, digestive system dysfunctions such as acid reflux, flatulence, bad breath, anemia, limb coldness, blood sugar abnormality, calve numbness
Lumbar and sacral impairments can lead to: bowel and bladder control weakness, chronic back pain, sciatica, hormonal imbalance, malnourishment, sexual dysfunctions, infertility etc.
Not all patients experience all of the above. Yet not all of these conditions are a definitive indication of a spinal cord impairment. A physician will be able to assess the myriad of symptoms and identify the root problem.
The most common indicative symptoms may include:
- Pain or pressure
- Muscle stiffness
- Muscle spasms
- Diminished/extreme reflex activities
- Muscle weakness
- Difficult breathing
- Digestive problems
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Sexual dysfunction and sensitivity
The higher up in the vertebral column the injury, the more severe the symptom. The severity of the condition also depends on the extent of the impairment. Most spinal cord injuries are irreversible. However, TCM acupuncture, Tuina and medication are proven ways to improve functionality, stimulating the remaining spinal nerves and for nerve cell regeneration. A rehabilitation program should be initiated as soon as possible after the injury.