Nathalie Smith, MSN, RN
Injury or disease to the nervous system can affect the ability to move a part of the body. This reduced motor ability is called paralysis.
Quadriplegia and paraplegia are most often caused by spinal cord injuries. But, they can also be caused by diseases, such as:
Most spinal cord injuries are caused by accidents, such as car crashes, falls, and sports injuries.
Whether it is paraplegia or quadriplegia depends on
the location along the spine where the injury occurs:
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to these conditions. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Factors that put you at risk for quadriplegia and paraplegia include:
Paralysis due to spinal cord injuries may be total or partial. This depends on how much of the spinal cord is damaged. In addition to paralysis of the arms and/or legs, you may also suffer from:
Inactivity due to paraplegia and quadriplegia can cause additional problems, like:
People with paraplegia and quadriplegia may also become
Diagnosis involves finding out where and how badly the brain and spinal cord are damaged. To do this, doctors will likely do the following tests:
Immediate treatment of spinal cord injuries includes bracing the bony spine to keep it from moving and further injuring the spinal cord. Steroids and other medications may be used to lessen damage to nerves and nearby tissue.
Recovery and rehabilitation usually begins in the acute care hospital setting. Depending on the cause and extent of the condition, this involves:
During this time, patients are fitted for mobility aids, including wheelchairs. For most people, the majority of recovery happens within the first year.
The following measures are advised to reduce your chance of getting a spinal cord injury:
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The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
Canadian Paraplegic Association (Manitoba)
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Spinal cord injury—acute management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 10, 2013. Accessed November 23, 2014.
Spinal cord injury—chronic management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 11, 2014. Acce4ssed November 23, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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