Paraplegia is an impairment in motor or sensory function of the lower extremities. The word comes from Ionic Greek: παραπληγίη "half-striking". It is usually caused by spinal cord injury or a congenital condition such as spina bifida that affects the neural elements of the spinal canal. The area of the spinal canal that is affected in paraplegia is either the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral regions. If all four limbs are affected by paralysis, quadriplegia is the proper terminology. If only one limb is affected, the correct term is monoplegia.
Spastic paraplegia is a form of paraplegia defined by spasticity of the affected muscles, rather than flaccid paralysis.
Due to the decrease or loss of feeling or function in the lower extremities, paraplegia can contribute to a number of medical complications including pressure sores (decubitus), thrombosis, and pneumonia. Physiotherapy and various assistive technology, such as a standing frame, as well as vigilant self-observation and -care, may aid in helping to prevent future complications and mitigate existing complications.
As paraplegia is most often the result of a traumatic injury to the spinal cord tissue and the resulting inflammation, other nerve-related complications can and do occur. Cases of chronic nerve pain in the areas surrounding the point of injury are not uncommon. There is speculation that the "phantom pains" experienced by individuals suffering from paralysis could be a direct result of these collateral nerve injuries misinterpreted by the brain.
Individuals with paraplegia can range in their level of disability, requiring treatments to vary from case to case. From a rehabilitation standpoint, the most important factor is to gain as much functionality and independence back as possible. Physiotherapists spend many hours within a rehabilitation setting working on strength, range of motion/stretching and transfer skills. Wheelchair mobility is also an important skill to learn. Most paraplegics will be dependent on a wheelchair as a mode of transportation. Thus it is extremely important to teach them the basic skills to gain their independence. Activities of daily living (ADLs) can be quite challenging at first for those with a spinal cord injury (SCI). With the aid of physiotherapists and occupational therapists, individuals with an SCI can learn new skills and adapt previous ones to maximize independence, often living independently within the community.
See also 
- ^ Taylor-Schroeder S, LaBarbera J, McDowell S, et al. (2011). "The SCIRehab project: treatment time spent in SCI rehabilitation. Physical therapy treatment time during inpatient spinal cord injury rehabilitation". J Spinal Cord Med 34 (2): 149–61. PMC 3066500. PMID 21675354.
- ^ Ozelie R, Sipple C, Foy T, et al. (2009). "SCIRehab Project series: the occupational therapy taxonomy". J Spinal Cord Med 32 (3): 283–97. PMC 2718817. PMID 19810630.
- ^ Tzonichaki I, Kleftaras G (2002). "Paraplegia from spinal cord injury: self-esteem, loneliness, and life satisfaction". OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health 22 (3): 96–103.