Terminology of Paralysis & Spinal Cord Injuries

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  • 0:00 Protective Coverings
  • 0:33 Spinal Cord Injuries
  • 1:42 Paralysis
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over the basics of spinal cord injuries as well as paralysis-related terminology that may stem from a spinal cord injury. These terms include: paraplegia, hemiplegia, hemiparesis, and quadriplegia.

Protective Coverings

Turtles have shells, armadillos have plates, and your spinal cord has vertebra. Shells, plates, and vertebrae are all designed to protect a softer, more vulnerable, interior. Running through the vertebrae is the soft and very important spinal cord. This is the part of the central nervous system that relays signals to and from the brain.

Despite the protective cases, turtles, armadillos, and the spinal cord can still sustain injuries. This lesson will describe and define vocabulary related to spinal cord injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Before we get to these terms, we need to first reconcile how in the world the spinal cord can even be injured in the first place if it is surrounded by really hard, protective bone - the vertebrae!

Well, everything from a bullet to a car accident can crush, split, or splinter these vertebrae and the resulting impact will either press onto the spinal cord, slice it, or tear it in half outright. That's a big problem! If you cut the cord to any piece of electronic in your home or even nick it, that electronic, like a TV, will malfunction or stop working properly.

Similarly, the injury to the spinal cord can either be incomplete, which means the person has some function below the level at which the injury occurred, or a complete injury, which means there is a total loss of sensation and muscle control below the level of the injury. And the higher up in the spinal cord the injury occurs, the more likely a greater portion of the body will be affected.

I should also note that a complete injury doesn't mean that function cannot be restored in the future, if not fully, then at least partially. The type of injury that occurs will obviously modify the prognosis.


But that is neither here nor there as this lesson is not about prognosticating the many types of spinal cord injuries. It's about defining important terms related to them.

As we just discussed, sensory and motor function is impaired or completely lost in a spinal cord injury. The loss or impairment of motor (that is to say, muscle) function and/or sensation is known as paralysis. Just as there are many things that can causes a spinal cord to be injured, there are many types of paralyses.

A slight muscular paralysis is called myoparesis. 'My/o-' means 'muscle' and '-paresis' is a combining form and word that means 'slight or incomplete paralysis.' This word is also utilized in hemiparesis, a slight paralysis affecting one side of the body, where 'hemi-' means 'half.' Someone with hemiparesis is said to be a hemiparetic.

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