Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Body: Spasms and Pain

During my accident, I broke my neck at C-1 C-2 and injured my spinal cord. There are two types of injuries, complete (spinal cord severed) and incomplete (spinal cord bruised or crushed). My injury is the latter, incomplete. Because of this, my brain is able to send some signals through my spinal cord to my body; this is the reason why I have feeling and slight movement. I also have muscle spasticity below my injury level which results in muscle spasms. Usually a spasm is caused by simulation to the body in various ways including range of motion, pain, infection etc. In instances like these, my body moves, shakes, and twitches as a result.

It may be hard to picture what a muscle spasm looks like unless you have witnessed one before. I've had many people come up to me during one and say "you can move!?!?" Disappointingly I have to tell them "no, it's just a spasm." One time my arms spasmed up at the same time someone tried to shake my hand. That made for an awkward situation for the other person because they thought that I was actually reaching out to shake their hand. I always react or come back with a humorous response to put people at ease in those situations.

Sometimes I get frustrated with my body. Often spasms come at inconvenient times and can disrupt my daily routine. Most times I have a spasm, my muscles get extremely tight and it makes it very difficult for someone to move me or do cares afterwards. It can easily get to the point where the spasms actually cause me pain in places I didn't have it before. This is especially true if I get twisted in a strange position because of them.

On the flip side, spasms can actually be good. Since I'm unable to move, they act as a form of exercise for me. One reason a spasm may happen is if I haven't changed position for a while. The spasm allows my body to move in ways it doesn't usually get to. In this case, occasionally it might feel good to spasm because it stretches my muscles. Another reason I would have a spasm is due to pain. My body reacts to the feelings in my body, so if I'm in any sort of pain it tries to reposition itself by spasming. I guess in a way this can be good also if I don't have the time to stretch or change positions to alleviate the pain. Spasms can also be a sign of an infection somewhere in the body; the benefit of this is that I can figure out if I have a urinary tract infection.

There are a few medications that can help with spasticity. One of them is baclofen, and that is what I used to take orally for a few years after my accident. When I reached the maximum dose I could take, and my spasms were still extremely bad, I had a baclofen pump surgically implanted. A tube from the pump wraps around and is inserted into my spinal fluid. On a set time period it releases a certain amount of baclofen. This helps it get into my system quicker and works better than taking it orally.

Lately, I've been having a lot more spasms than usual. This is caused from the pain in my right shoulder which is possibly due to my arm slowly dropping out of the socket. I had an MRI done to confirm this and in the last six months have tried multiple things to relieve it (i.e. ice, heat, massage, physical therapy, high adhesive tape, ultrasound, tens unit etc.). I've also resorted to some pain meds including ibuprofen, Tylenol and even Valium. Pain wise, some days are better than others but it varies with different activities and stresses. I think I'm doing all the right things, but only time will tell whether or not everything is helping.

Another thing that happens with my body is muscle tightness. Since I'm either sitting or lying down and because my muscles can get so tight they are pulling my bones causing a curve in my spine. This makes it really uncomfortable to be in some positions, so when I'm up in my wheelchair I wear a TLSO (back brace) to help straighten my spine. I also wear AFO's (foot braces) to keep my feet from tightening up and turning in. At night, I use elbow and hand braces to keep my arms from tightening up. Click here to learn more about my braces.

There are many things that go with being a quadriplegic but these are just a couple that stand out. If you have any questions about anything I said or want to learn more feel free to ask; I'm very open. Also, to learn more about muscle specificity or anything related to spinal cord injuries click to go to



Jackie said...

Thank you for your openness Jenni.

I was thinking about you today funnily enough. I sat in my chair at work and wondered how long I could sit without moving. Instantly my nose began to itch, my hair fell in my face and I realised my sweatshirt was rucked up behind me against the seat. I think paralysis is so unimaginable to the majority of people so blog posts like yours today are invaluable as a form of education. Thank you.

Zim said...

I wish You strenght in this difficult fight... Greetings for You!