Injuries are commonly associated by people to be a localized problem. In some cases however, a certain injury, especially if quite extensive, may result in negative effects towards other areas of the body. There is quite a list of serious injuries that may cause such, in which spinal cord injury (SCI) is one of the most feared. SCI is considered to be very dangerous since the damage is centered on one of the main pathways of information in the human body. In fact, developing SCI does not necessarily mean that an individual has to undergo physically damaging accidents.
In some cases SCI is developed as a result of a disease that has somehow affected the spinal area (Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center [SCIRC], n. d. ). Even though the spinal column, as seen on Figure 1 below, is relatively fragile especially from within, it plays a vital role in the overall system and proper functioning of the human body. Due to the spinal cord being a major pathway and a controller of information from the brain towards other parts of the body, damage to it will expectedly cause unfavorable effects on the other organ systems.
Three of the organ systems considerably affected during the occurrence of SCI is the integumentary, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems. These three organ systems are of course vital and must be kept fully functional for the maintenance of an individual’s overall body functions. Figure 1. Computer generated image of the spinal column (Swaminathan, 2008) The integumentary system, mainly composed of the skin, serves as the first line of defense of the body against any direct environmental threats. Basically, it encapsulates the other organ systems within its area of coverage for protection.
The skin also has a balancing role in terms of temperature and moisture, as it partially maintains the optimal levels for both of these parameters. An injury related to the spinal cord, specifically SCI in this case, will definitely lead to direct damage towards the integumentary system. Since commonly, a person that has SCI will not be able to move a portion of the body, and in several cases, he or she is bedridden most of the time, the skin will be exposed to a prolonged duration of pressure directed towards it.
Pressure ulcer, in effect, occurs on these bedridden individuals, and as a matter of fact, this problem is one of the most common complications of SCI (Johnson & Lammertse, 2008). The chance of occurrence of this problem depends on several factors. Age, environment condition, nutritional status, and health status all play a role in determining the chances of developing pressure ulcer (Johnson & Lammertse, 2008). The skin or the integumentary system clearly does not escape the effects of SCI.
It is unlikely for the other organ systems to escape similar problems due to SCI. The musculoskeletal system, made up of the muscular and the skeletal systems, suffers a similar fate. The major function of the said organ system is to enable an individual to move around. Given that it is common for people with SCI to be in a non-mobile state, the most easily foreseen problem is related to the muscular system. Muscular atrophy is a known complication when an individual loses the capability to move around actively.
In fact, muscular atrophy is literally referred to as the deterioration of the muscles around a specific problem area due to a lack of physical activity. A similar case is hard to imagine for the skeletal system, as people usually perceive the skeleton as a sturdy protective barrier. However, contrary to this, the skeletal system suffers a very parallel kind of damage in comparison to muscular atrophy. When parts of the body cease to move for a long period of time, the bone mass gradually decreases.
So basically, what occurs is a form of osteoporosis, also considered as another major complication of SCI (Weiss, 2008). The resulting damage to the musculoskeletal system is mainly attributed to the fact that the progression of its main functions has been significantly impeded. It is evident with the points given that the supporting structures for locomotion enters a phase of degradation during the occurrence of SCI.