Living with spina bifida can be difficult, as this condition presents a range of physical disabilities from nerve damage to spinal deformities. It is important to understand how spina bifida affects the body, and what you can do to stay healthy and manage your disability.
Uncontrolled Muscle Tone and Weakness.
Spina bifida can cause muscles to become very tight or very weak, which makes them difficult to control. This can affect sitting, standing, moving and other activities. Physical therapy can help develop strength, flexibility and coordination to promote better function of the arms and legs. Exercise is also important for fighting fatigue and joint stiffness caused by spina bifida.
Lower Body Paralysis or Weakness.
Lower body paralysis or weakness is a common side effect of spina bifida. The majority of clients affected by this condition experience lack of sensation and motor control below the waist. This can lead to difficulties with balance, transfers, mobility and ambulation, along with scoliosis. Supportive equipment like arm supports, wheelchairs, and orthotics are often used to help achieve increased mobility for those affected by spina bifida.
Scoliosis and Osteoporosis Risks.
People living with spina bifida are often at a higher risk of developing scoliosis or osteoporosis. Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, and can occur due to weak muscles throughout the torso and legs. Osteoporosis is another common side effect, as it weakens bones which can lead to fractures or other injuries. Exercise and good nutrition may help reduce these risks, so it’s important to have a regular exercise plan and healthy diet in place.
Difficulty Regulating Body Temperature.
People living with spina bifida can have difficulty regulating their body temperature, due to the inability of the spinal cord to function properly. This can lead to feeling overly hot or cold, even in comfortable temperatures. It’s important for those with spina bifida to dress appropriately for the weather and, if necessary, seek medical attention if temperature regulation becomes a challenge.
Spinal Curvature Issues and Abnormalities of the Back and Legs.
Spina bifida can result in a curvature of the spine caused by hydrocephalus, in which an individual’s spinal column curves sharply to one side. Additionally, they may experience muscle weakness which results in difficulties with walking, as well as difficulty sitting upright or keeping their head up straight. There may be swishing sounds from the neural tube defect when there is a fluid buildup in the bones of the spinal cord. People with spina bifida may also experience scoliosis, which is an abnormal curving sideways of the spine.