From March onwards, the global lockdown due to pandemic changed the way people live around the globe. The regular lifestyle got replaced by a stay-at-home lifestyle. While it did seem fun initially, slowly, the repercussions became evident.
People started complaining of constant backache, spondylitis, and other spinal cord injuries. Past research has shown that for each million population of the USA, about 34 people suffer from spinal cord injuries. The lockdown has aggravated the situation.
Let us have a look at the factors that have led to this increase and the mitigative measures.
What Are Spinal Cord Injuries?
The spinal cord along with the brain makes up the central nervous system. Any physical injury that interferes with the normal working, i.e., sensory, motor, or autonomic functions of the spinal cord is termed as a spinal cord injury.
The national spinal cord injury database states that there are about 300,000 SCI patients in the USA. Of these, 78% are men. Spinal cord injuries involve long hospital stays and long rehabilitation periods.
Causes of SCIs
SCIs can be caused by several factors. The major ones are:
- Vehicular accident: It is the most common factor contributing to 39.3% of the total SCIs. Both accidents and rash driving cases come under this. The sudden jerk puts immense pressure on the neck and back, causing severe damage.
- Falls: Fall from a height takes the 2nd spot with about 31.8% consisting of the total SCIs. Just like a vehicular accident, fall from height can cause severe damage to the spinal cord.
- Violence: The USA reported 1.2 million violent crimes in 2019. It included assault, rape, robbery, murder, and sexual assault. In cases where the victim managed to survive, a large percentage reported serious spinal cord injuries.
- Sports: Some sports like diving and gymnastics can cause serious spinal cord injuries.
- Medical & miscellaneous reasons: Spinal cord dysfunction could also arise from botched surgeries. Conditions like tetraplegia and paraplegia arise from SCIs. There are several other factors like regular commute on a bumpy road that leads to issues like slip discs.
Factors That Led To Increase In Scis During Lockdown:
Spinal cord injuries are not uncommon in medical history. However, the lockdown because of the pandemic has suddenly spurted the cases. It could be because of the following reasons:
- Diverted medical care: During the pandemic, hospitals paid all the attention to COVID patients. Other diseases took a back seat. So, the patients who were taking rehabilitation measures or treatments were no longer able to get it regularly. People could not get timely diagnosis or treatment. This eventually led to an increase in the cases.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Lockdown led to companies adopting the work from home policies. Government asked people to avoid going out. So, it resulted in people spending the majority of their time indoors. Exercises took a back seat. People no longer went out for their regular walks or gym workouts. All these resulted in spinal cord injuries. The most common issues reported are constant backache and spondylitis.
- Long Working Hours: While most professionals got work from home, those in the essential services sector got extremely long working hours. This led to their exhaustion and in many cases, SCIs.
- Incorrect Body Posture: With people spending the majority of their time indoors, they stopped paying attention to their body posture. Working while lying on the couch or simply lying idle in awkward neck positions, can lead to spinal cord injuries. It can be as simple as neck pain or can get serious as a slipped disc.
How To Diagnose?
Diagnosing spinal cord injuries can get tricky sometimes. Because the spinal cord controls a lot of motors, sensory, and autonomic functions, any injury can affect these functions however, any person who suffers from SCI shows these symptoms:
- Difficulty in limb movement
- Difficulty in bowel movement
- Mild to extreme pain along the spinal cord
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of sensation
- Loss of libido
- Troubled breathing and coughing
If you show two or more of these symptoms and suspect SCI, you should immediately consult your doctor. He/she may suggest further tests like:
- CSF Analysis: Cerebrospinal fluid acts as a cushion for the brain and the spinal cord, protecting it against injuries. It also acts as the medium for the removal of waste products from them. Analysis of CSF reveals if you have any autoimmune disease or infectious disease, tumor, or internal bleeding.
- MRI Spine: With the use of magnetic field and radio waves, doctors use MRI to map your spinal cord and the surrounding tissues to look for injuries.
- Myelography: Myelography uses the injection of a contrast dye and X-rays to look for injuries in the spinal canal.
Spinal cord injuries can be prevented in the following ways:
- Proper safety measures while on road: Always use seat-belt and follow the speed limit when on road. While this does not guarantee that no accidents will happen, it will surely protect you in case of any such mishap.
- Exercise regularly: Many conditions arise because of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. The best way to handle them is by indulging in regular exercise. Yoga is the best form of exercise to keep SCIs away. If you are already suffering from any issue, you should refrain from heavy lifting.
- Adopt proper body posture: A proper body posture ensures that your spinal cord remains in the best condition. Use back support while working long hours. Never work or study while lying. Use the proper mattress and pillow while sleeping.
Spinal cord injuries are not new to the world. However, the advent of lockdown and sudden inflow of COVID patients into the hospitals has led to a rise in these cases. The best way to keep the issues at bay is by adopting a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise.
If you are already diagnosed with it, you should complete your rehabilitation program at the best pain and spine fort Washington. With the help of family and friends, you will always be able to overcome this phase.