Complete versus incomplete injury

There is another “level” (see what I did there?) to spinal cord injury.

No matter what level the spinal injury occurs, the injury can either be complete, or incomplete.

A complete injury means the nerves are no longer connected above and below the injury. In an incomplete injury, some or all of the nerves are still connected.

The fundamental difference here is that in a complete injury there is no hope for the recovery of function, sensation, strength, or movement. The nerves no longer send messages to each other, and there is no way to rejoin them. In an incomplete injury, any portion of the nerves are still connected, and there may be hope for recovery.

One of our physios explained it this way: let’s say that a nerve or muscle is made up of 10 strands. In reality, it is more like thousands or hundreds of thousands, but let’s imagine it is only 10. In any injury, even if just one strand is still connected, there is the possibility for recovery. On the other hand, if you imagine that the muscle is 10 strands but only one is working, then the strength of the recovered function is impaired. You would have to super-bulk the muscle to let it make up for the lack of the missing ones.

Colin’s injury is incomplete. That, together with the skill and luck of the surgeon who repaired his neck in the 5-hour surgery, means that we can expect the recovery of function and strength, as we have seen.

Here’s to more and more.

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