There is no cure for paralysis. However, a patient can regain some or even all of their sensory function and motor control when the cause of the paralysis is treated. In some instances, for example, following treatment after a stroke, the same range of muscle control and feeling recovery may occur.
It is also exciting to note that various studies and clinical trials are showing progress in the area of enabling a paralyzed individual to use their limbs.
How Spinal Cord Injury Causes Paralysis
When paralysis occurs as the result of a sudden blow to the spine, vertebrae can be dislocated or fractured. The spinal cord can be stretched or otherwise displaced, which causes nerve signaling between the brain and the muscles below the injury to immediately cease.
Once the spinal cord has been damaged, there is no known way to reverse that damage. Severe injuries may cause the following problems, which further disables communication pathways up and down the spine:
- Natural cell membranes break
- Axons are damaged or cut
- Ruptured blood vessels cause blood clots and pressure on the spinal cord
- The spinal cord swells at the injury site
- Blood flow to the cord tissue is reduced
- Blood pressure drops
- The body can no longer self-regulate
- Spinal shock sets in
The cellular and biochemical events that follow kill neurons and set off an inflammatory immune system response. The damage resulting from this second phase of injury can be deeply destructive and can include:
- Blood flow changes that can slow nutrient and oxygen delivery to neurons, eventually killing them.
- Too many neurotransmitters are released, killing neurons.
- White blood cells invade cord tissue, causing an inflammatory immune response that will damage or kill neurons.
- Free radicals destroy nerve cells.
- The process of natural cell death is somehow triggered.
- Scarring forms a wall at the injury site, preventing any regenerated axons from reconnecting.
The extent of all this damage has made it extremely challenging for scientists to find a cure for paralysis.
There Is No Cure for Paralysis, But Some Degrees of Functionality May Return
If you suffer a complete paralysis, at any functional level, it is unlikely that you will recover motor control and sensory function below the area of your spine where you were injured. Any improvement will manifest within a few days of the injury occurring.
For incomplete (or “partial”) spinal cord injuries, full recovery is not likely, but you may experience some degree of improvement eventually. Most likely, if you show any recovery, you will at least be able to control your bladder and bowels and possibly walk or move around.
Furthermore, a person with complete quadriplegia suffers an elevated risk for secondary medical complications, such as pressure ulcers, pneumonia, and deep vein thrombosis.
Types of Treatment for Paralysis
Various types of rehabilitation treatment can, if not cure, then at least prevent the paralysis from worsening and/or enable the patient to live as independently as possible.
Examples of rehabilitation treatments for people who suffer from paralysis include the following:
● Occupational therapy – This type of rehabilitation focuses on fine motor skills to improve the patient’s ability to function while doing normal, everyday activities.
● Physical therapy – This type of rehab puts exercise, massage, and heat to use as agents for stimulating muscles and nerves.
● Functional electrical stimulation – This therapy helps restore neuromuscular function, as well as sensory function and autonomic function, like control of the bowel, bladder, and respiratory system.
● Vocational therapy – This therapy trains people on the use of assistive devices, so they can return to work.
Aids for People With Paralysis
A variety of aids exist for the purpose of helping people with paralysis enjoy a fuller, higher quality of life. Some examples of these devices include:
- Mobility aids – Such as scooters and wheelchairs
- Supportive devices – For example, walkers, canes, and braces
- Assistive technology – Including lighting systems, voice-activated computers, and telephones
- Adaptive equipment – Including controls that facilitate driving a car or special utensils for eating
Scientific Research and Development Shows Promise for People With Paralysis
Progress on curing paralysis has moved slowly, as it is a condition that does not affect a massive segment of the population. However, recent research developments and clinical trials have shown tremendous promise for a day when even those who suffer from quadriplegia may be able to regain control of their motor functions.
For example, a research team at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and the Miller School of Medicine has tapped a brain-machine interface that is able to facilitate motor functions after spinal cord injuries.
A research subject was in an accident that left him a complete quadriplegic. Using a brain-machine interface, the man could grasp, pick up, and move objects with his right hand. The interface also enabled the subject to write and walk with the help of a robotic ambulator.
In an experiment conducted by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, electrical implants were placed in the spinal cord of study participants to carry signals across the damaged part of their cords to the non-damaged areas. With electrical stimulation, a man who had been wheelchair-bound after a spinal cord injury was able to walk. This experiment was conducted only on subjects who had retained at least some level of motor function below their injuries.
Technologies such as these may enable people with paralysis to live more fulfilling and independent lives.
Recover Your Damages for Paralysis Caused by Another Party
If your paralysis resulted from a spinal cord injury caused by another person or party, you may be able to recover the costs of your past and future medical expenses, therapies and treatments, as well as lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Pintas & Mullins can represent you in your quest for this compensation, giving you the personal attention to put your mind at ease as we fight for your right to have justice served.
Call Pintas & Mullins today for a free, no-obligation case review: 866-513-0846.