Quadriplegia also known as tetraplegia is a form if paralysis that occurs due to an injury to the neck area of the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a soft bundle of nerves that extends from the base of the brain to the lower back making these two organs linked. In several cases, this results into total or partial loss of the sensation and control of the limbs (arms and legs).
Quadriplegia deprives the patient’s ability to move any part of the body below the neck. The severity of the injury and the place it occurred at determine the amount of function a person will maintain. The middle of the back injury affects the legs (quadriplegia).
Sometimes patients can move their arms, but have no control over their hand movements hence being dependent on care takers. Because the spinal cord and the brain are the main parts of the central nervous system which sends messages throughout the body, the injury is devastating taking away someone’s independence.
Primarily, quadriplegia is caused by a spinal cord injury. However, the amount of impairment resulting highly depends on the part of the spinal cord injured and the amount of damage done.
Other causes of quadriplegia are trauma brought about by collisions such as a car accident, a sports injury. Conditions such as polio, congenital disorders such as muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis can also cause quadriplegia.
Injuring the spinal cord without fracturing the spine is possible, for example in a case where a ruptured disc or bony spur on the vertebra protrudes into the spinal column.
Symptoms of Quadriplegia
The first symptom of quadriplegia is motor or sensory impairment to the arms and legs and sometimes the torso. The loss of function in the torso usually results in a loss or impairment in controlling the bowel and bladder, sexual function, digestion, breathing and other autonomic functions.
Sensory loss can be in form of numbness, reduced sensation or sore burning sensation or sore burning neuropathic pain and some kind of finger dysfunction.
A person with damage to the spinal cord at the cervical spinal cord segment C1 will probably lose function from the neck down and require permanent assistance with breathing in the form of a machine called a ventilator.
Complications of Quadriplegia
Quadriplegia causes many complications which leave the patients in extreme pain and need for extra help like: Loss of bladder and bowel control, pressure sores, pain especially within arms, legs, back, and other areas which do not respond to external stimuli, blood clots, respiratory problems, autonomic dysreflexia, and spastic muscles which cause the legs and arms to jerk. Related injuries such as burns without realizing it since they have no sensation in their limbs.
Medical Marijuana and Quadriplegia
Medical marijuana has been recorded to alleviate neuropathic pain associated with the illness and lessen muscular spasticity making it a better option for this condition.
According to a research conducted at the Department of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, Canada where 12 volunteers were recruited with spinal injuries to test whether Nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid alleviated their spasticity. 11 of the 12 subjects showed significant decrease in activity from affected muscle groups.
THC in particular a cannabinoid found in marijuana is known to help with spasticity and pain. The Switzerland Centre for Spinal Cord Injury study of 2007 involving 25 patients with spinal cord related injuries proved this fact. The subjects who received oral THC in the form of oil by the end of the study reported an overall decrease in the spasticity sum score (SSS).
Spinal cord injuries change a lot of things in someone’s life but you can still have a full and rewarding life with medical marijuana. With more research into the medical ability of the different cannabinoids in the marijuana plant, the symptoms and complications associated with the illness will be completely eliminated.