Spinal cord rehabilitation

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:49 pm
Unfortunately, about 10,000 people are paralyzed each year because of spinal cord injuries. Your spinal cord and brain comprise your central nervous system, and when damaged by trauma, tumor, infection, or interruption of its blood supply, damage to the central nervous system can be permanent. Depending upon the location of the injury, a patient may be a quadriplegic (quad-rah-PLEE-jik) or paraplegic (pair-ah-PLEE-jik). A quadriplegic is affected in all four limbs, while paraplegics are only affected in the legs and trunk. Neurologic recovery after a spinal cord injury usually occurs over a period of 18 months. During the process of rehabilitation, this improvement can be converted into useful functions of everyday life. Early in the recovery process, a physical therapist works with the patient to prevent complications of immobility, such as contractures (kuhn-TRAK-shurs), bedsores, drops in blood pressure, and the build-up of fluids in the lungs. In most cases, stretching, proper positioning of the body, and gradually sitting upright can help prevent complications. Patients usually progress to improving their bed mobility, transfers, and trunk balance in both sitting and standing positions. Also, training is given in wheelchair mobility, wheelchair transfers, pressure relief, and higher-level wheelchair skills that can help patients get around in the community.

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