Loss of Muscle Strength
The effect of Spina Bifida on the muscles and bones is complex and varies significantly depending on the level of the defect in the spinal cord. Some degree of paralysis occurs with most cases of Spina Bifida. Higher levels cause more severe loss of muscle function. Without nerves to make them work, muscles become weak. Usually there is weakness in the feet and legs but muscles in the upper body above the Spina Bifida are normal.
Many children with Spina Bifida are able to walk either with aids or without, especially if the defect is below waist level. Some people born with Spina Bifida may choose to use a wheelchair to assist with mobility as they get older. Others individuals with greater degrees of paralysis require leg braces or a wheelchair, to get around on a more permanent basis.
The table below gives an approximate prognosis for children born with Spina Bifida to walk.
Because the muscles of the body support the bones and keep them balanced, loss of muscle function results in a variety of problems including dislocated joints, misshapen bones, dislocated hips and curvature of the spine. Problems caused by loss of muscle function are managed with a combination of bracing, physiotherapy and/or surgery.