Spina Bifida

Spina bifida literally means “split spine” and is a birth defect in which the vertebrae of the spinal column do not fuse correctly, allowing the spinal cord to stick out through the space between the bones. This most commonly occurs in the sacral and lumbar regions of the lower spine.

Although the spina bifida itself can be surgically closed either after birth or even through intrauterine surgery, this will not restore the damaged spinal cord function.

The effects of spina bifida differ according to the location of the spinal opening but all neural signals to body parts below this space will probably be damaged and a wide range of organs, muscles, and body functions will be adversely impacted.

The most common problems experienced with spina bifida are:

  • Walking difficulties or even inability to walk due to paralysis of the legs, feet, and lower body
  • Lack of sensation in the feet, legs, and lower body leading to increased chances of pressure sores and burns
  • Urinary incontinence of different types and degrees
  • Bowel incontinence of different types and degrees
  • Sexual dysfunctions including erectional and ejaculation dysfunctions
  • Learning disabilities in some patients, though in many intellectual ability is unimpaired
  • Joint abnormalities
  • Spinal deformity – particularly scoliosis in which the spine becomes S-shaped
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Spinal cord tethering in which the cord is attached to the original lesion and gets stretched.

Although spina bifida cannot be cured its symptoms can be managed through the use of incontinence pads, controlled diets, enemas, and fecal bags and by regular monitoring of bladder, spine, and kidney function. Shunts can be inserted to drain off blocked spinal fluid from the brain and orthopedic surgery is common to help to improve the mobility of children’s feet and legs to increase their chances or walking with or without aids.

Therapies such as Revivo’s intensive suit treatment in which special skeletal clothing is worn to maintain good body posture and focuses on using repeated movements in a series of progressively more difficult resistance exercises can help to increase muscular strength, range of motion, and flexibility, particularly when instigated after corrective surgery. It can also help to retrain the brain and improve motor skills, sensory processing, endurance, coordination, balance, and enhanced functional skills.

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