The spine is a very interesting part of the body. It not only allows us to bend over and stand upright, but it also is the main path that connects our brain to the rest of the body.
There are 33 interlocking bones that make up the spine, each one able to turn, twist and bend independently.
The spinal cord sits safely inside the bones so it is protected. It is made up of nerve fibres all bundled together, which carry the electric signals sent from the body to the brain, and back again.
Spinal cord injury awareness day aims to highlight what life is like with damage to the spinal cord. It can cause a permanent or temporary change to how it works. Often, there’s a loss of muscle function, sensation and/or loss of the use of limbs or body parts that were controlled by the nerves that were damaged.
The way spinal cord injury is classified is by where the break has occurred in correspondence to the spinal nerves, and is classified as to where the lowest level of sensation and function is still possible. There are also two further variations - a complete or an incomplete break. A complete break means that the cord has been completely severed, so there is no function below it. An incomplete break is when the cord is compressed or injured so the brain is still able to send and receive signals below where it is damaged, to varying degrees.
A break between C1-C7 (the cervical section) tends to affect a larger portion of the body due to it being so close to the brain, causing tetra or quadriplegia, with limited or absent feeling below the neck or shoulders.
Damage to the T1 - T12 (thoracic section) normally results in paraplegia. The highest areas the T1 - T5 breaks will affect are the upper chest, mid-back and abdominal muscles, as well as the trunk and legs. T6 - T12 affects the abdominal and back muscles.
Breaks in the Lumbar section (L1 - L5) bypasses damage to most of the upper body's functionality, but can still affect the hips and legs.
The lowest part of the spine is the sacral section, S1 - S5. A break here will most likely leave the individual able to walk, but there may be little to no control of bladder or bowel organs.
Check out these two posters showing all of the aforementioned areas in a visual, both available for purchase now (click on the pics to go to the product page)!