Around 1200 people in the UK are paralysed with spinal cord injuries every year, with the annual cost of caring for these patients over £500 million. There are numerous causes of spinal cord injuries, including car accidents, wounds that sever the cord, and infection or inflammation, as well as medical negligence issues.

Seeking help for a spinal cord injury can be done through a number of different organisations in the UK, all of which can help patients adjust to living with this type of injury and managing their rehabilitation.

Causes

Some of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries are car accidents, and other sudden traumatic blows to the spine. Non-traumatic injuries to the spinal cord can be caused by arthritis, cancer, inflammation, infections or spinal disk degeneration.

A firm of medical solicitors completed research on over 1000 medical negligence cases, and found that back lesions, including spinal cord injuries, represented 6.2% of all the claims received. The two most common ways that spinal cord injuries are caused or contributed to by medical negligence are:

  1. Complications during treatment or surgery
  2. Misdiagnosis or delayed treatment of spinal injury or condition

Patients suffering from spinal conditions who have received treatment, should always ensure that they get a second opinion if the treatment does not appear to be alleviating the pain.

Treatments

For spinal cord injuries, there is no way to truly reverse or “cure” them. New research is developing in the fields of regenerative medicine (to help the spinal cord repair itself), medication to alleviate pain, and prosthesis to help the patient function more normally. Long term rehabilitation involves maintaining and strengthening existing muscle function, promoting fine motor skills and learning new techniques to complete day-to-day tasks despite the injury.

Seeking Help

There are a number of different organisations in the UK that provide support and information for those with spinal injuries.

Spinal Injuries Association

The Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) provides information about what spinal cord injuries are, and how they can affect your body. SIA’s mission is to provide support to those suffering from spinal cord injuries, by way of advising, educating, and campaigning on the behalf of those with injuries.

Spinal Research Trustees

Spinal Research Trustees works towards developing treatments for paralysis caused by a broken back or neck. Founded in 1980, Spinal Research Trustees has worked at the forefront of medical research and breakthrough developments in managing and alleviating these conditions. They provide material for patients seeking spinal cord repair, including details on the different repair strategies used by scientists, and information on how clinical trials work.

Aspire

Aspire provides support for those who have suffered from a spinal cord injury, including assistance with housing help, help with independent living, technology, grants, welfare assistance, and information about understanding spinal cord injuries from a medical perspective.

UK National Health Service

The National Health Service (NHS) provides health services across the UK, and via their website NHS Choices, provides health information and treatment recommendations for various ailments. With regard to spinal cord injuries, they provide information about preventing pressure ulcers if you are paralysed, and exercise options for those with injuries. They also provide details on treatments, potential complications, causes, and diagnosis of spinal cord injuries.

Conclusion

Adjusting to life with a spinal cord injury can take a lot of time, effort, and care. For many patients, they need to come to terms mentally and emotionally with their injury, which may often include severe paralysis. Depression, anxiousness, and confusion are common, and it’s important to be aware of the networks that are available so that patients and their loved ones can get the support and help that they need.

Practical support should also not be overlooked – housing assistance, welfare benefits, and in-home care providers can all make a patient’s transition into their new lifestyle easier. Suffering from an injury of this kind will make a patient’s life harder, but it does not need to take away their happiness or stop them from enjoying life.