Breathing is usually something
we do without thinking. But a
spinal cord injury (SCI) may affect some of the muscles needed for breathing. This makes it
hard to breathe, cough, and bring up
mucus from the lungs, which leads to a greater risk of
lung infections such as
How your breathing muscles
are affected and what it means to your ability to breathe depends on which part
of your spine was injured.
It is possible that the main title of the report Guillain Barré Syndrome is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.
People with injuries lower on the spinal cord (below T12) usually don't lose control of these muscles and have no trouble
People with SCIs high on the neck may need a
ventilator. People with injuries between these levels
have a partial loss of the breathing muscles but can usually still breathe on
Preventing lung problems
There are things you can do to help prevent lung problems.
Know the symptoms of pneumonia. If you have the
symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Talk to him or her
about getting vaccinated for pneumonia and
influenza. For more information, see the topic
Practice coughing. A forceful cough is important, because it will help you
bring up mucus in the lungs, which can help prevent some lung complications. If
your cough is weak and you have trouble bringing up mucus, you may need an
Remove excess mucus from the lungs. Coughing may not bring up all
the mucus. In this case, you may need
chest physiotherapy and/or postural drainage.
Practice breathing. Doing exercises, such as breathing
out forcefully, can help strengthen the muscles you use for breathing.
And there are things you can do that aren't directly related to your
Sit up straight, and
move around as much as possible. This helps prevent mucus buildup.
Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthy foods will help keep you from gaining or
losing weight. Being either overweight or underweight can lead to lung
Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water. This helps prevent the
mucus in your lungs from getting thick, and it makes the mucus easier to cough up.
If you have concerns with bladder control, talk to your doctor about how much
and when to drink fluids.
Choking: What to do
Choking is a danger if you have an SCI,
because the usual cough mechanism may not be strong enough to bring up the item
that is choking you. If choking occurs, your caregiver should:
Hit you sharply 4 times between the shoulder blades with the
palm of the hand.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 above until you stop choking.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 17, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this