Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FAQs: SCI 101

SCI stands for spinal cord injury and most people don’t know much about injuries to the spinal cord unless they have one themselves, are closely related to someone who has one, or are in the medical profession. Most people who injure their spinal cord lose all movement AND sensation from that point down. For example, I broke my neck at the second cervical vertebrae and have now lost function from my neck down. (If you break your neck further down on the spinal cord, your body may only be compromised from the shoulders down, or the chest down. If you break your back, only your legs might be compromised.

I don’t have control of the muscles from my neck down, but I still have full sensation. My sensation isn't exactly normal, and it especially wasn't normal right after my accident. At first my body tingled all over and it felt like pins and needles were touching me everywhere. But as time went on, my sensations began to feel more and more normal as my body slowly came out of spinal shock. I’m really glad that I can still feel, even though that means feeling pain, because most people in my situation either can't feel, or have limited sensation. My sensation might not be 100% normal, but at least I can still feel from head to toe.

Although I can feel pressure and touch, I can’t feel temperature from my neck down. I know when I’m cold and I want a blanket on, or when I’m hot and I want a fan blowing on me, but I can’t sense the temperature of objects touching my skin. (If you touched me with a popsicle I would feel the pressure of the popsicle, but it wouldn’t feel as cold to me as it would to you.)

Something else interesting having to do with my sensation is that I don’t itch anywhere from my neck down. I’m thankful for this because itching on my face and scalp is torture enough since I can’t do anything to relieve the itch.

One downside to having sensation is that there’s a lot of pain that accompanies spinal cord injury, at least for me. It’s a different kind of pain that is hard to describe to someone who has never felt this kind of pain before. It’s called neuropathic pain, and it’s a burning pain that feels burning hot and icy cold at the same time. I feel the pain in my hands, bottom, lower legs and feet, although, it’s different for different people. Some days the pain is so intense that it borders on excruciating. Thankfully, I’m on a couple of medications that really help manage the pain. Every day without pain is a good one!

Another interesting thing having to do with my spinal cord injury is that all of my pain is worse on the left side of my body. It’s strange and I’m not sure why this is, but it’s another quirky thing having to do with spinal cord injury.


Clarinda said...

The neuro pain gets to me too. I am on Gabapentin but some days that doesn't work, especially when there's rain coming.

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