Many of us can remember Superman from the 70s and 80s, portrayed by Christopher Reeve. Unfortunately, many of us also remember that sad day in 1995 when Superman suffered a terrible injury to his neck.
Christopher Reeve was violently thrown from his horse while riding and he broke his neck, shattering his top 2 vertebrae. This forced him to become an air vent quadriplegic, completely paralyzed from the head down. The injury at the level of his top spinal bones severed his spinal cord, creating a total neurological disconnect between his brain and the rest of his body. This forced every cell, organ, and system of his body to go into shut down mode. It was a tragic event, but what can we learn from it?
Let's start by taking a look at how Christopher responded to his injury. He was determined to heal from his injury, but with stem cell and spinal cord research still in it's infancy, he did whatever else he could to try and get his body strong again. He used many forms of physical therapy to try and build muscle and flexibility. He sought the advice of nutritionists and dieticians in an effort to feed his cells with the proper nutrients to fuel his body efficiently. Unfortunately with such severe neurological disconnect, all these efforts simply weren't enough. Although he did recover nicely from the moment immediately following the accident, his body never came close to that iconic Superman image we all remembered. It didn't matter what he did, as long as his spinal cord injury blocked the flow of life from his brain to the rest of his body, he simply couldn't function properly.
The reason I wanted to write about this story is because Superman's injury was severe, resulting in severe problems. Although it's dramatic, it can help us understand how vital our brain and spinal cord are to our health.
Let's take a step back and realize that not all spinal cord injuries need to be as severe as the one that Christopher Reeve suffered. It's been reported that we endure 7,000 injuries (slips, trips, falls, etc.) on average by the age of 11 years old. While the majority of these are minor, they can have a cumulative effect on our spine and our posture. These minor injuries (especially in the head and neck region) can result in structural shifts or minor displacements of our spinal bones. While seemingly insignificant on an individual basis, if not taken care of these shifts will add up and eventually lead to nerve pressure and tension on the spinal cord. This pressure and tension creates a disconnect between our brain and the rest of our body, leading to pain, numbness, weakness, and improper body function.
This story of Christopher Reeve is tragic and extreme, but it demonstrates how vital our spinal cord truly is. After his injury he even stated "If you injure your neck, you can injure every organ in your body. I now know how fragile our existence truly is." Don't wait until your injuries add up, be proactive with your health and have someone take a look at the state of your spine and nervous system.