Approximately 11,000 spinal cord injuries involving Paraplegia are reported in the United States yearly. These injuries occur as a result of automobile and motorcycle accidents, falls, sporting accidents, and gunshot wounds; although, it is also caused by congenital conditions. When the spinal nerve signals below the level of the injury is partially cut off from the brain, this results in Paraplegia disability. This is an impairment of motor or sensory function of the lower extremities. The most affected areas of the spinal canal by Paraplegia are related directly either with the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions. Spinal Cord injuries are medical emergencies. Immediate treatment can reduce long-term effects.
There are several effective techniques that can help minimize the impact of these injuries and could help paraplegic patients regain some movement of the joints, muscles, and extremities. These techniques extent and are not limited to: manual therapy, physical therapy, sport medicine rehabilitation, exercise training, technological stimulation, neurological studies, and emotional support. All these therapies along with the proper professional intervention can help paraplegic patients get back some sense of support that could lead to their future independency and self worthiness.
When a person suffers a spinal cord injury most of the neurological information travels from the spinal nerves below the level of injury all the way to the brain. Somehow these spinal nerves stop sending signals to the brain partially cutting off its main function resulting in Paraplegia. There are many levels of Paraplegia that depend on the severity of the injury which permanently damages the spinal cord. There are several effective techniques and practices that have successfully helped with the rehabilitation of paraplegic patients. Some of these techniques extent from manual therapies such as stretching and flexibility exercise, swimming, and the usage of the most innovative technological development today. These therapies help managing the Paraplegia disability and stop the probability from worsen and acquiring complications to the disease. Therefore, offering new hope and a sense of emotional support to paraplegic patients. “If you are an underdog, mentally disabled, physically disabled, if you do not fit in, if you are not as pretty as the others, you can still be a hero.” (Guttenberg, 2012).
Managing Paraplegia is not an easy task. The disability itself is very breath taking but the people that suffer the disease manage the strength to endure and confront it. Some of the most endurance trainings are physical deteriorating. 1. Stretching and Flexibility exercises are the two most important techniques used to treat paraplegia at the present time. Stretching can reduce muscle spasticity and is good to improve flexibility. These exercises also help to reduce other related health problems such as Tendonitis and Bursitis. Manual therapy is the hands-on approach that differentiates Physical Therapists from other health practitioners. This practice should be the prime and backbone of any treatment plan because it reeducates the body into its proper movement and mechanics, and helps tremendously in the rehabilitation of paraplegic patients. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Einstein).
Since most of the Paraplegia cases are rarely known to be overcome, it is only fair to say that some of the emotional stages these patients get to be at lets them acquire some grade of optimism to keep on and have faith that their miracle may come at any time. “Limitations only go so far.” (Hensel). The psychological toll paraplegic patients go through is very high, but this does not stops them from making their dreams come true and keep competing in the sports they like the most. For example the paratriathlete, John McLean, who became the first person in a wheelchair to complete the Ironman World Championship and swim the English Channel in 1995 and 1998. 2. Swimming and aquatic exercises provide optimal conditions for paraplegic patients. The water eliminates the effects of gravity allowing weakened limbs to attain a greater range of motion. It also helps to support the body so there is less stress on the hips, knees, and spine.
Exercises in the water increase muscle power and endurance which help mobilize joints and muscles. Therefore, swimming is definitely a good sport to practice that stimulates the health and wellbeing of people suffering from Paraplegia. “Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life.” (Thompson). Paraplegics should have access to the developmental progress currently happening in the field. Although, everybody does not have the same capability of reaching new technology doctors should implement it for the well being of their patients. 3. Innovative new technological therapies offer new hope for Paraplegia disability. For example: The spinal electric stimulation helps patients to temporarily regain muscle control in their legs, feet, toes, ankles, and knees. The ultrasound therapy also helps generate heat deep in the body that makes it easier to loosen up tissues in the preparation of manual therapy.
Last but not least, another alternative to treat Paraplegia is the Ware K. Tremor therapy which uses special assisted facilities and equipment made specifically to manipulate the human neurological and nervous systems. This therapy helps paraplegic patients intensify their sensitivity and environmental stimulation. “Handicaps are really to be used another way to benefit yourself and others.” (Wonder). This type of technology has improved the life of many paraplegic patients. Improving their style of life through technological advances can be a tool they can use to help re-establish their lives in many ways.
Although, is a great road ahead more and new researches are being done in order to help paraplegic patients manage the disease. For example in Kentucky for the first time in history and with the usage of a neurostimulator four young men who were paralyzed for several years were able to move their legs again. This progress was obtained through the usage of the electrical epidural stimulation of the spinal cord. This technology has helped and has given a new light at the end of tunnel and a new resource in the battle of this terrible condition.
Scientists are currently using all the available resources in order to fight and possibly cure Paraplegia. It is a big ordeal considering all the factors that contribute to the level of injury each patient has. The amount of time this impairment takes in order to be handled has a big impact in the emotional well being of each individual. All the different kind of therapies offered to the patients has its pros and cons, but some risks must be taken in order to be able to obtain positive results. The life expectancy for patients with Paraplegia is lower than normal people. Fortunately, during the past several years the survival rate has increased. The truth is that some paraplegic patients will be able to see some kind of improvement along the road, others will still be fighting the disease hoping that new technology or cure can be created in order to save their lives.
“I thank God for my handicaps, for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.” (Keller). It is only fair to acknowledge that the disease itself, the recuperation process, and the rehabilitation progress take so much strength not only from the patients, but also from each and one of every family member that is involved. The disease takes its own style of life that creates a sense of compassion that should be present in every human being in order to help fight this terrible disease.
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