Spine Specialists On-Call: Paralysis - How Close Are We to Walking Again?
Doctor Gerard Malanga is one of the innovative leaders in the field of spine and orthopaedic rehabilitation. He is the Director of Pain Management at Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey.
Did you know that a traumatic injury to the spinal cord is not the only cause of paralysis? While most research is done on traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI), many spinal cord injuries result from non-traumatic causes such as tumors, spinal stenosis, and infections. These conditions can compress the spinal cord and cause, or contribute to paralysis.
Spinal stenosis can cause the spinal canal to narrow. The spinal canal houses and protects the spinal cord and the nerve roots. When spinal stenosis develops, the spinal cord and nerve roots may be pinched and become inflamed.
Spinal infections are rare. There are different types of infections that may occur in the spine; these include: (1) Discitis: an inflammatory infection of the disc space, (2) Vertebral osteomyelitis: an infection affecting the bones in the spine (vertebrae) and, (3) Epidural abscess: an infection in the tissue that covers the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Paralysis Defined by Function
Medical and allied health professionals define paralysis in terms of function. For example - loss or reduced ability to function (motor skills) and/or feel (sensory abilities). Fortunately, not every paralysis is permanent. Some patients have what are called incomplete spinal cord injuries. In other words, there is still some cord connection and spinal function below the level of the lesion (injured level).