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Paraplegia and quadriplegia are paralyzes due to neuronal injury or disease. Find out more about the causes and treatment of paraplegia here!


There is a logical and physical topographical organization to the anatomy of the central nervous system, which is an elaborate web of closely connected neural pathways. This ordered relationship means that different segmental levels of the cord control different things and injury to a particular part of the cord will impact neighboring parts of the body.

The most common causes of damage to the spinal cord (Paraplegia or Quadraplegia) are trauma’s such as motor vehicle accidents, motor bike accidents, falls, sports injuries (particularly diving into shallow waters), gunshot wounds, assault and other injuries; and disease such as poliomyelitis and spina bifida.

Direct injury such as cuts can occur to the spinal cord, particularly if the bones (vertebrae) are damaged.  Fragments of bone or fragments of metal (for example from a car accident) can cut or damage the spinal cord causing injury.  If the head, neck or back are twisted abnormally, the spinal cord can be pulled, compressed or pressed sideways, also possibly causing direct damage. The accumulation of blood or fluid can cause swelling within the spine or spinal cord causing compression of, and damage to the spinal cord, resulting in an spinal cord injury.

A common set of biological events take place following spinal cord injury:

Cells from the immune system migrate to the injury site, causing additional damage to some neurons, and death to others, that survived the initial trauma.

The death of oligodendrocytes causes axons to lose their myelination, which greatly impairs the conduction of action potential messages or renders the remaining connections useless. The neuronal information highway is further disrupted because many axons are severed, cutting off the lines of communication between the brain and muscles and between the body’s sensory systems and the brain.

Within several weeks of the initial injury, the area of tissue damage has been cleared away by microglia and a fluid-filled cavity surrounded by a glial scaris left behind. Molecules that inhibit regrowth of severed axons are now expressed at this site. The cavitation is called a syrinx, which acts as a barrier to the reconnection of the two sides of the damaged spinal cord.

Although spinal cord injury causes complex damage, a surprising amount of the basic circuitry to control movement and process information can remain intact. This is because the spinal cord is arranged in layers of circuitry. Many of the connections and neuronal cell bodies forming this circuitry above and below the site of injury survive the trauma.

The spinal cord runs down the back, protected inside a body case (Vertebrae). The spinal cord contains bundles of nerve fibres which connect the brain with the skin, organs and parts of the body. It acts like a telephone line that relays messages from your brain (telephone switchboard) via the spinal cord (telephone cable) to all parts of your body (telephone receivers) and back again.

  For example, when you want your toe to move, the message “toe move” is relayed down the cord, through the nerve of the toe, and your toe moves. At almost the same time, the toes sends back the message “I’ve moved” to the brain. In Paraplegia and Quadriplegia, the spinal cord is damaged so the message cannot be sent to areas below the damaged area, or back again.


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