Kingsley Napley “Goes the Distance” with the SIA for Spinal Injuries

5 September 2016

On the 18th of September 2016, members of the Kingsley Napley clinical negligence team will participate in the second edition of the annual Going the Distance walk organised by the Spinal Injury Association (SIA).  The purpose of this event is to fundraise for the SIA whilst raising public awareness of the realities of living with a spinal cord injury.

The SIA is a leading national charity that accompanies individuals who have sustained a spinal cord injury. It provides a wealth of physical, social and emotional support. The SIA’s vision is that all spinal cord injured people should receive the specialist treatment, care, rehabilitation and support they need to be fully integrated and empowered participants in society. The SIA advises, educates and campaigns on behalf of all those affected by spinal cord injury.

The routes of 4 and 8 miles will start at the Victoria Embankment Gardens and take participants around London’s iconic landmark. It is a family friendly event and is accessible for wheelchair users. Many participants have sustained back injuries and take part in their wheelchairs, scooters or hand cycles.

One of the aims of the SIA is to raise awareness around spinal cord injuries. Below are some frequently asked questions around this type of injury:

What is a spinal cord injury?

The spinal cord is formed of nerves which connects the brain with the body. It is located in the spinal canal which rests inside the vertebral column.  Damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal (the cauda equina) can cause permanent change in sensation, movement and other body function below the site of the injury. The symptoms and prognosis of those affected by a spinal cord injury can vary widely depending on the location of the injury in the cord. 

How are spinal injuries diagnosed?

The majority of spinal injuries occur after traumas such as accidents or falls. There is no single test that can reveal whether a spinal cord injury has been sustained. Instead, clinicians rely on various factors, including clinical examinations and imaging techniques.

A clinical examination generally involves a visual examination of the spine and checking symptoms. Patients may be asked to move their limbs, follow movement with their eyes and undergo blood tests to diagnose whether there is a spinal cord injury.

Imaging is one of most useful diagnostic tools to identify whether there has been a spinal cord injury. The most commonly used techniques are MRI scans and X- Rays. Radiological images can reveal whether there has been damage to the spinal column, spinal cord, or even the brain.

What is the difference between a complete and incomplete spinal injury?

A complete spinal cord injury means that the spinal cord is fully severed. Both sides of the body are affected and there is no sensation from the level of injury and below. A complete spinal injury is generally permanent.

By contrast, an incomplete injury is one where the spinal cord is partially, but not fully, severed. The degree of function depends on the extent of the injuries. Some muscle function, movement and sensations are retained.

Approximately 60% of spinal cord injuries are incomplete, this is partially due to advances in early response treatment. 

How does the location of the spinal cord injury affect ability to function?

Generally, the higher up the injury on the spinal cord the more mobility and sensation will be limited. Each spinal cord injury is unique and affects individuals differently.  There are two main terms used to describe medical conditions that relate to individuals who have sustained spinal cord injuries:

  • Paraplegia: this refers to damage in the thoracic spine. Sensation and function in the lower half of the body, including legs and some stomach muscles are affected.
  • Tetraplegia: can occur subsequent to damage in the neck (cervical spinal cord). Movements and sensation is lost in arms, legs, and some stomach and chest muscles. There may be varying degrees of paralysis with little or no ability to move below the site of the injury. 

What are the treatment options for spinal cord injury?

Once a spinal cord injury has been diagnosed, generally the patient will be stabilised by doctors. Any movement could be detrimental and cause further damage. Clinicians and rehabilitation consultants will then work with each patient individually to construct a treatment plan. This may involve:

  • Surgery: to treat the injury itself or interrelated health problems
  • Palliative care, for example pain medication or pain management techniques
  • Rehabilitation: this often involves a Rehabilitation Centre or a Spinal Injury Unit. Individuals may stay in hospitals to learn how to adjust to using a wheelchair and everyday techniques to go about daily living
  • Physical therapy to retrain the brain and body
  • Counselling for the patient and their family to help reshape their life after the injury

Individuals who sustain a spinal cord injury often find they need to change a number of aspects of their daily life and home to accommodate their needs.

Kingsley Napley is sponsoring Westminster Bridge for the SIA Going the Distance walk.  If you would like to sponsor our team please go to our Just Giving page here.

If you would like to speak to solicitors who specialise in spinal injury claims, please contact the team by email at clinnegenquiries@kingsleynapley.co.uk or by calling 020 7814 1200.

For more details about the SIA Going the Distance event, please contact the SIA on 01908 604 191 or at https://www.spinal.co.uk/events/going-the-distance-2016-london-bridges-walk/.

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