In a serious accident, such as a car crash or bad fall, a victim could suffer a catastrophic injury that results in a condition known as paralysis. Paralysis is the temporary or permanent loss of feeling and function in part of the body. Paralysis may start with more minor symptoms and progress into the full loss of feeling and motor function below the point of injury. In other cases, paralysis can be instantaneous.
What Happens Before Paralysis?
Paralysis can occur when the brain or spinal cord suffers an injury that impacts the complex system of nerves that allow the brain to control the rest of the body. If a spinal cord injury fractures the spine or otherwise damages its nerves, for example, the victim may become paralyzed. A brain injury, stroke, infection, genetic disorder or autoimmune disease could also result in paralysis.
If you are in an accident and suffer an injury to your back, neck, spinal cord, head, skull or brain, you may experience any of the following early signs of paralysis:
- A tingling sensation (also described as “pins and needles”)
- Numbness anywhere in the body
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle stiffness
- Flaccid (floppy) muscles
- Involuntary muscle spasms or twitching
- Abnormal reflexes
- Muscle pain
- Problems with balance or motor function
- Trouble with speech
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Trouble controlling bladder
The symptoms associated with paralysis depend on whether the injury is incomplete (temporary) or complete (permanent), as well as the location of the injury on the spinal cord and the severity of the injury in general. The signs and symptoms of paralysis can occur immediately after a serious injury, while you are still at the scene of an accident. In other cases, however, you may not notice the signs of paralysis until after the injury has gradually progressed and made the symptoms more severe.
What Are the Stages of Paralysis?
Paralysis can take the form of a gradual loss of function in one localized area or be widespread throughout a victim’s body. If paralysis is gradual, a victim may initially notice sensations such as tingling or numbness in parts of the body. Then, as the injury worsens, the victim may experience more severe levels of paralysis, such as complete loss of movement or sensation in one part of the body or the loss of bowel and bladder control.
In an emergency, such as a severe spinal cord injury, the symptoms can be immediate. A victim may notice extreme pain or pressure in the neck or back, immediate weakness or paralysis in part of the body, complete loss of bladder and bowel control, and the inability to walk or move the affected limb(s). Whether or not a victim of paralysis regains feeling and function in the affected areas in the future depends on the injury. With treatments such as physical therapy and surgery, some victims are able to improve their conditions.
How Are You Diagnosed With Paralysis?
If you notice any potential signs of a back or spine injury after an accident or believe you are experiencing the early signs of paralysis, seek medical attention immediately. Injuries that come with a risk of paralysis require immediate medical care. Paramedics will arrive at the scene to stabilize the victim’s spine and prevent further damage.
If left untreated, a spinal cord injury can become exacerbated and result in more severe or permanent paralysis. Diagnosing paralysis typically involves imaging scans, such as x-rays, to uncover broken bones that may cause nerve injuries. A myelogram or electromyogram may also be used to check for nerve injuries and spinal cord damage.
You may not notice the signs of paralysis immediately, but this does not mean that you are uninjured after an accident. Always see a doctor after suffering trauma to the head or neck in an accident in Arizona. Medical care can help prevent complications connected to paralysis, such as pneumonia and infections, as well as help you manage your symptoms.