Did you know that ...
spinal cord injury patients have to endure spasms? Our colleague Wolfgang Illek is quadriplegic and knows why.
Monday morning. We are in a team meeting. Suddenly and without any warning, my legs begin to twitch uncontrollably. My back muscles cramp up. I do my best to counteract this with my hands. My attempts are futile. Muscle groups in both my arms and hands are now, in similar fashion, twitching and moving of their own accord. A few seconds later, it’s all over.
My body is calm once more. My colleagues, having been confronted with this before, know that these are so-called spasms – a term which originates from the Greek term “spasmos” (cramp).
Spasms are not an illness. They are a symptom indicative of an injury to the central nervous system. In cases of brain or spinal cord injury, the body stops passing signals to relax the muscles. The result is that proprioceptive reflexes are no longer regulated automatically and movements become uncontrollable. Spasms, however, may have varied effects on people who experience them. While some only have mild or moderate pain, others endure excruciating muscle convulsions, which, in turn, strongly impact on their quality of life. Precisely due to spasticity, people suffering from an incomplete lesion, for instance, may only stand for so long and are prone to lose their balance from one moment to the next.
Nonetheless, there can also be an upside to spasms. In my case, they activate muscle groups which I can no longer readily control. This in turn stimulates both blood flow and circulation. A permanent state of tension in the musculature can be of help to people with a complete spinal injury by allowing them to retain certain levels of body stability, which in turn is an advantage when moving out of bed and into the wheelchair.
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