Common Myths about Spinal Cord Injuries
There are some things about spinal cord injury that are undeniably true - but there’s plenty of half-truths, misconceptions and full-blown myths floating around. These misconceptions are easy enough to settle with education and myths can be dispelled by shedding a little light on the reality. Here are some of the top assumptions made about people with SCI - and the reality behind them.
People With a Spinal Cord Injury Can’t Have Babies
This one’s not true - while not without some challenges, people with spinal cord injuries have babies all the time!
Immediately after a spinal cord injury, some 50-60% of women do experience amenorrhea, where menstruation stops. But for most women, their normal menstruation returns within a year or less, with no negative impact on fertility.
Spinal cord injury doesn’t affect the development of a baby. Expectant mothers might not be able to feel much throughout their pregnancy, depending on their injury, but the baby’s progress goes on as normal.
Labour also starts as normal, because it’s triggered by hormones rather than the nervous system alone. Depending on the level of injury, labour pains might not occur, so different cues (mum’s water breaking, for example) are used.
What About Men?
It’s true that spinal cord injury can impact men’s erections, sensations and semen, but these symptoms of SCI are becoming more and more treatable with modern medicine and techniques. Men and women alike can go on to have intimate (and adventurous) sex post-spinal cord injury, and children are a very real option if they want them.
Wheelchair Racing is the Only Sport for SCI People
Anyone aware of the Paralympics knows how much variety there is in disabled sport. People with spinal cord injuries have just as many sporting opportunities as those without.
Sailing, skiing and surfing are amazing experiences and with just a few adaptations can be done by anybody. Tennis, basketball, rugby, football and just about any sport or game can be adapted for wheelchair players. Racing is a prominent wheelchair sport, but it’s far from the only thing left to people with SCI.
Spinal Cord Injuries Rarely Happen Anymore
SCI happens in the blink of an eye. At work, at home, on holiday and on the road, spinal cord injury affects 40,000 people in the UK - with 1,000 new spinal cord injuries every year. Spinal cord injury can happen to anyone: nobody is immune to it.
1,000 annual injuries is far too many, but improvements are constantly being fought for. Advocacy, research, policy changes, new technology, education - everything’s linked. Prevention should always be priority number one, and educating people has a positive long-term effect. So much more work needs to be done to raise awareness and improve safety.
You Can’t Get a Job if You Have SCI
Even though more than 3.4 million disabled people are in employment in the UK, this myth is actually kind of half-true. Sadly, traditional employment has a long way to go to adapt to a diverse workforce. People with spinal cord injuries are still just as smart, hardworking and dedicated as they were before injury, so why should the job market suddenly close up?
It’s stigma, not facts, that prevent people with disabilities from getting work. The assumptions made by employers, even in the 21st century, aren’t even very well hidden: a woman who applied for 100 jobs only got an interview after hiding her disability.
But there are opportunities out there - including freelance work and self-employment that harnesses the creative skills of people with SCI.
As for changes that employers can make, Cornell University has created guidelines that, although intended for US employers, should enable any workplace to accommodate people with spinal cord injuries. Just a few small environmental changes can make it possible for someone with SCI to thrive at work.
Spinal Cord Injury Ruins Your Life
People with spinal cord injury have done incredible things with their lives. They’ve inspired others, loved, laughed and lived. Many people living with SCI have become celebrities and influential figures. Most have lived rich, full lives. All have faced a life-changing event.
SCI can be isolating, frustrating and depressing. It’s a colossal change. It can put a lot of things on hold - but it’s not the end. There are always people there for you - family, friends and your community. There are amazing charities, groups and individuals out there, waiting to help.
It’s not easy. Things will never be the same way again. But life is worth living.
Disability Benefits Pay for Everything
While the NHS provides an awful lot for people with spinal cord injuries - both immediately after the event and with ongoing support - Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefits generally can’t fill the gap. Even if returning to work is impossible, the maximum total sum of benefits is financially limiting. Benefit caps don’t apply to claimants of DLA or PIP - but without other sources of steady income, making the necessary changes to live comfortably post-injury can be a stretch.
Charities like Aspire work tirelessly to help people with SCI flourish, not just financially but in every aspect of life. At Aspire Law, we specialise in spinal cord injury compensation - to help those affected secure a financial settlement. We know that all the money in the world won’t turn the clock back - but with our help, clients can maintain a level of independence and a good standard of living.
People with SCI Can’t Drive
People with spinal cord injuries can and do drive - it’s just another everyday activity. Cars can be adapted in amazing ways, to become accessible and operable without pedals. Even if someone has the use of only one hand, driving is a possibility - it depends on the level of injury and if any drug use is needed for pain management, but after a driving assessment, many people with SCI can return to driving.
We’ve written in a lot more detail about driving after a spinal cord injury, with information assessment from the DVLA.
Talk to a Spinal Cord Injury Specialist
Aspire Law is a specialist law firm, working for people with SCI. For information and spinal cord injury legal advice, get in touch: give us a call on 0800 030 20 40.