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Thread: When Spinal Cord shock wears off....

  1. #1

    When Spinal Cord shock wears off....

    What are the signs that spinal cord shock is ending? How long does this process takes? Our Mother suffered a spinal cord injury on July 24th. It is c5/6 incomplete. Yesterday she felt the needle in her stomach for the first time. She is also noticing temperature change and was cool for the first time since the accident. Is this a good sign or not?

    They PT's had her stand. She said on the fourth time she felt weight on her legs. Her hands are beginning to show signs of improvement. She can move the fingers on her right slightly better than her left. She is a Baylor Inst. for Rehab in Dallas. We know we are early in the process.

    My family and I have found much of your advice to be both helpful and insightful. Thank you for all your help.


  2. #2
    There are verying accounts of the time frame for spinal shock. The process can be very gradual or very sudden. I have found that individuals report sensory change for as long as 6 months and longer. Many SCI doctors will say that no recovery occurs after 18 months post injury. Christopher Reeve defied that by getting both sensory and motor as much as 7 years post injury.
    My advice is to take each day as it comes and don't lock your Mother into any set timeframe. Each person is different and no two spinal cord injuries are the same.
    Every day I wake up is a good one

  3. #3

    CK covered it pretty well

    As I have posted before, I have received sensory function for over 10+ years. I classify your mom as a "newborn". The next 12 months - 18 months she should get some return. Can't tell ya. Everyone different. But I was mis-diagnosed in the early stages.
    Lynarrd Skynyrd Lives

  4. #4
    There is no general scientific or clinical consensus about "spinal shock", how long it lasts, what it is, and even whether it exists. The term was first applied by Sir Charles Sherrington over 100 years ago, to describe a transient loss of spinal reflexes when he cut the spinal cord of monkeys. Since the reflexes from all parts of the spinal cord below the cut were suppressed or lost, he thought that this had something to do with the spinal cord being in "shock" over the loss of the connections. While this phenomenon of reflex loss does occur in monkeys, it has been hard to document in other animals including cat, dog, rats, and mice. In fact, in many animals, there appears to be an increase in reflexes below the injury site after the spinal cord has been cut. Sherrington described this phenomenon of increased excitability of the spinal cord below the injury site and it is called the Schiff-Sherrington response or phenomenon, usually occurring after the "spinal shock" wears off. The "spinal shock" that Sherrington described usually lasts only a few hours after injury.

    Clinicians have been talking about "spinal shock" for a long time but I am uncertain that it occurs in humans or is as common as most clinicians think. I have examined many patients during the acute phase of spinal cord injury and only a minority of patients of the most severely spinal-injured people actually have a complete loss of reflexes below the injury site. The cause is not known and it usually does not last more than a few days, unless of course the spinal cord is damaged below the trauma site either by trauma or due to loss of blood flow.

    In my opinion, clinicians who talk about people coming out of "spinal shock" weeks or even months after injury are misusing the term. I think that these people are recovering functioin rather than coming out of "spinal shock". The term reflects the enormous pessimism of clinicians who, for many centuries, believed that the spinal cord is incapable of recovery, especially after so-called "complete" spinal cord injury. Therefore, spinal shock is sort of a convenient excuse for ignoring recovery when it does occur. By attributing recovery to spinal shock wearing off after a long period of time, they are reinforcing the dogma that the spinal cord does not recover.

    Clinicians have long used another concept called "root recovery" to deny that recovery of function occurs after spinal cord injury. A majority of people get at least 1-2 segmental levels of sensory and motor recovery below their injury, often occuring months after injury. Because muscles receive innervation from 2 or more segments, many clinicians have attributed such segmental recovery to "root recovery". While spinal roots can get damaged and may take months to recover, I am very skeptical that the segmental recovery that is seen results from roots being damaged and recovering function. There is no evidence for such recovery and it is used by clinicians to reinforce their pre-conceived notion that recovery does not occur in spinal cord injury, particularly after so-called "complete" injuries.

    We have known for many years now that people with so-called "incomplete" spinal cord injury will get back substantial function often far below the injury site. This is not due to root recovery and it is very unlikely to be due to people coming out of spinal shock. In fact, many of the people who get such recovery are quite spastic during the recovery period and this by definition rules out "spinal shock". Some people with "complete" spinal cord injury also recover function. My experience suggests that 17% of people with so-called "complete" spinal cord injury and no motor or sensory function below a given neurological level at the time of admission will recover ability to walk. This is particularly true if they have received methylprednisolone within 3 hours after injury.

    A majority of people with "complete" spinal cord injury will recover some voluntary muscle movement many segments below the injury site, often years after injury. Almost everybody will get at least one segment of sensation back, most will get isolated patches of sensation many segments below the injury site. A majority will 2 or more segments (particularly people with thoracic spinal cord injury). Thus, some recovery is the rule rather than the exception in spinal cord injury and, in my opinion, is not due to people coming out of "spinal shock". It is real recovery. Whether it is from remyelination or regeneration is not clear but I believe that both occur in people after spinal cord injury.


  5. #5
    As has been said, everybody is different and has different recovery and set backs. Continue doing the therapy and go day by day. I'm 21 years post injury and continue to do daily therapy of some extent. It's a long road with many twists and turns, but you have found a road map here to guide you and your mother along.
    C2/3 quad since February 20, 1985.

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