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  • Transverse Myelitis

    Overview

    Transverse myelitis is an inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord. This neurological disorder often damages the insulating material covering nerve cell fibers (myelin).

    Transverse myelitis interrupts the messages that the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body. This can cause pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, sensory problems, or bladder and bowel dysfunction.

    There are many different causes of transverse myelitis, including infections and immune system disorders that attack the body's tissues. It could also be caused by other myelin disorders, such as multiple sclerosis. Other conditions, such as a stroke of the spinal cord, are often confused with transverse myelitis, and these conditions require different treatment approaches.

    Treatment for transverse myelitis includes medications and rehabilitative therapy. Most people with transverse myelitis recover at least partially. Those with severe attacks sometimes are left with major disabilities.

    Symptoms

    Signs and symptoms of transverse myelitis usually develop over a few hours to a few days and may sometimes progress gradually over several weeks.

    Transverse myelitis usually affects both sides of the body below the affected area of the spinal cord, but sometimes there are symptoms on just one side of the body.

    Typical signs and symptoms include:

    Pain: Transverse myelitis pain may begin suddenly in your lower back. Sharp pain may shoot down your legs or arms or around your chest or abdomen. 

    Pain symptoms vary based on the part of your spinal cord that's affected.

    Abnormal sensations: Some people with transverse myelitis report sensations of numbness, tingling, coldness or burning. 

    Some are especially sensitive to the light touch of clothing or to extreme heat or cold. You may feel as if something is tightly wrapping the skin of your chest, abdomen or legs.

    Weakness in your arms or legs: Some people notice heaviness in the legs, or that they're stumbling or dragging one foot. Others may develop severe weakness or even total paralysis.

    Bladder and bowel problems: This may include needing to urinate more frequently, urinary incontinence, difficulty urinating and constipation.

    How PhysioFunction Can Help

    Treatment should be focused upon that individual and tailored specifically to their condition. A treatment programme is formulated following a thorough physical assessment which might include:

    • Stretching activities to maintain muscle and tendon length and reduce or keep muscle spasms/spasticity to a minimum.
    • Flexibility and strengthening exercises for the whole body.
    • Breathing exercises to maximise lung function and prevent chest infection.
    • Balance and posture exercises which can help to reduce pain associated with poor posture and balance impairment and ensure correct transfer techniques (in/out of wheelchair, bed, toilet/bath, car etc.)
    • Functional activities to improve fundamental movement patterns such as rolling over and sitting up, and standing where appropriate.
    • Walking re-education, if there is sufficient muscle activity and power in the legs.

    Your physiotherapist might also be able to advise an individual on use of appropriate equipment such as wheelchairs and pressure relieving cushions, exercise equipment and electrical muscle stimulators (EMS)/Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) e.g. Odstock Pace, Bioness and Exoskeletons including REX.

    With appropriate treatment and by challenging an individual during recovery, together with sound advice and encouragement, Neurological Physiotherapy can indeed maximise your independence.

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