It's taken me a while to write about this. (I think I have written about it in my own journal, but not really here. I had to be ready).
It's all about the letters and numbers.
For those not in the spina bifida world there are actually 2 sets of numbers and letters to work with (actually maybe 4), which represent that lesion (where the spine was damaged) or level. One is motor ability and the other is sensory ability. Then there is actual level and functional level. Am I confusing you yet?
I talk a little about it on my 'learning blog' here.
OK back to the basics: The spine is made up of vertebrae (bones) that have letters and numbers. From the top down we have 8 cervical vertebrae (C1-C8), 12 thoracic vertebrae (T1-T12), 5 lumbar vertebrae (L1-L5) and 5 sacral (S1-S5).
When we got Nick's diagnosis the best 'level' we were told was lower lumbar/upper sacral. When he was born we were told his lesion was at S1. Bonus!
But he doesn't actually function at a 'S1' level. I've known that for a long time. But I was figuring it would be something like L5. (One level up, no big deal). But then Nick has been very complacent when we try to get him to do things that we (I) believe he has the ability to do.
She did some tests and tried to get him to do some stuff. Much to Nick's dismay.
I asked about how I could do some tests at home. It was suggested I look at some different resources - but they didn't have what I wanted.
What I wanted was a simple test to give me a letter and a number.
What I found is that it is not that easy.
Oh, did I mention that she told me L3!
I was in a funk for days. All I could think of was L, L, L, L, L (OK I already knew that letter) but 3! 3 is just so much higher than I thought. That is actually 4 levels higher than I thought.
Well, I'm not to take that!
So online I went.
I looked at a bunch of articles that talked about flexion and extension and abduction/adduction. Then I had to look up what all of those meant, and then I had to look up pictures.
It also helps me to decipher what PT says when they talk about quadriceps, hamstrings ect and what exactly that means!
So what did I do when I was trying to learn about all of this?
I wrote a chart. And this is what I learned:
The reason it is so hard to figure out a level is that different muscles and abilities are from multiple nerves. Hmm. Not so easy!
L2, L3, L4 - thigh adduction
L4, L5, S1 - thigh abduction
L5, S1, S2 - extension of leg at hip (gluteus maximus)
L2, L3, L4 - extension of leg at knee (quadriceps)
L4, L5, S1, S2 - flexion of leg at knee (hamstrings)
L4, L5, S1 - dorsiflexion of foot
L4, L5, S1 - extension of toes
L5, S1, S2 - plantar flexion of foot
L5, S1, S2 - flexion of toes
So lets just say that I'm not taking L3 lying down.
And hopefully I will eventually learn that Nick is too young still to give a number too. And even if that number is L3 (which I don't think it is), it doesn't matter. It was just a bit of a shock when I expected L5 (maybe L4). And I'm going to stop taking about numbers and letters now.