Every incomplete paraplegic will be different.
Just because the cord damage is the same level as another person
it doesn't mean the resultant disability will be the same.
In fact most 'incompletes' are very different. What
recovery there is will be dependent on three main factors.
How badly the cord was damaged, what level it is and the precise
area of the cord that was affected.
The potential recovery is normally seen in the first 6 months
post injury although recovery gains have been reported to
continue for up to 2-3 years afterwards. Recoveries and
the potential for them will vary enormously. The very
incomplete may have virtually no noticeable loss of motor
function but impaired sensation or other bodily functions.
The other end of the scale is where there is little or no motor
function below the level of injury but sensation to touch/pain
etc has been preserved. The potential for recovery will be
affected by other factors too. i.e. access to good physiotherapy
and occupational therapy, normally this will be on a specialist
spinal injuries unit. General health post injury and the right
mental attitude are also important in maximising any potential
return of function.
My own injury is
described as C4 incomplete
tetraplegia. My cord damage is central cord syndrome.
Very fortunately I was airlifted from the scene of my accident
and within two weeks was on a specialist spinal injuries unit in
London. My outcome is very similar to what is described
below for central cord syndrome. My legs are much stronger
than my arms enabling me to walk slowly with crutches indoors.
My left arm has little motor function and my right about 30% of
normal range of movement. My shoulder function and ability
to extend or raise my right arm has remained very poor, meaning
I still require a lot of help with daily living.
My injury was in '94 and
I broke C2,3 + 4, and consider myself very very fortunate to
have had an incomplete injury at that level.
See below for the most common incomplete syndromes.
Incomplete Tetraplegia -
Types of Incomplete
An incomplete lesion is the term used to describe partial damage
to the spinal cord. With an incomplete lesion, some motor and
sensory function remains. People with an incomplete injury may
have feeling, but little or no movement. Others may have
movement and little or no feeling. Incomplete spinal injuries
differ from one person to another because the amount of damage
to each personís nerve fibres is different.
effects of incomplete lesions depend upon the area of the cord
(front, back, side, etc) affected. The part of the cord damaged
depends on the forces involved in the injury.
Anterior Cord Syndrome: is
when the damage is towards the front of the spinal cord, this
can leave a person with the loss or impaired ability to sense
pain, temperature and touch sensations below their level of
injury. Pressure and joint sensation may be preserved. It is
possible for some people with this injury to later recover some
Central Cord Syndrome: is
when the damage is in the centre of the spinal cord. This
typically results in the loss of function in the arms, but some
leg movement may be preserved. There may also be some control
over the bowel and bladder preserved. It is possible for some
recovery from this type of injury, usually starting in the legs,
gradually progressing upwards.
Posterior Cord Syndrome: is
when the damage is towards the back of the spinal cord. This
type of injury may leave the person with good muscle power, pain
and temperature sensation, however they may experience
difficulty in coordinating movement of their limbs.
Brown-Séquard syndrome: is
when damage is towards one side of the spinal cord. This results
in impaired or loss of movement to the injured side, but pain
and temperature sensation may be preserved. The opposite side of
injury will have normal movement, but pain and temperature
sensation will be impaired or lost.
Cauda equina lesion: The
Cauda Equina is the mass of nerves which fan out of the spinal
cord at between the first and second Lumbar region of the spine.
The spinal cord ends at L1 and L2 at which point a bundle of
nerves travel downwards through the Lumbar and Sacral vertebrae.
Injury to these nerves will cause partial or complete loss of
movement and sensation. It is possible, if the nerves are not
too badly damaged, for them to grow again and for the recovery
Incomplete Tetraplegia -
Causes of SCI -