Motor function and the ability to move involve all parts of the motor nervous system. Injury, malformation or disease to any part of this system will therefore affect the individual’s ability to move.

The motor nervous system includes:

  • The central nervous system (CNS): this is composed of the brain and spinal cord and is responsible for initiating and co-ordinating movement.
  • The peripheral nervous system: this consists of nerve pairings, which radiate to the various parts of the body from the CNS. These pairs of nerves send messages to and from the brain.
  • Muscles, ligaments and tendons: these are located throughout the body and respond to sensory information. Muscles use the pulling forces of contraction and work in antagonistic pairs, that is, they oppose each other.
  • The skeleton: this provides a system of support with a variety of joints that enable a wide range of movements.
  • Function of the spine:
    • Protects the spinal cord
    • Provides central support and stability
    • Enables a range of movement
    • Ligament and muscle attachment
  • Functions of the discs:
    • Act as shock absorbers
    • Vertebral spacers
    • Reduction of friction
    • Limit over-extension/movement

Some of the risks associated with immobility include:

  • Physical
    • increased risk of deep vein thrombosis
    • increased risk to skin integrity and pressure sore development
    • increased risk of development of chest infection/pneumonia
    • increased risk of urinary tract infection
    • increased risk of constipation
    • decreased joint and muscle movement resulting in muscle atrophy and
    • increase in generalized aches and pains, for example drop foot and contractures
  • Psychological
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • loss of independence
  • loss of self-esteem
  • Sociocultural
  • increased social isolation and loneliness
  • increased inability to function independently in society
  • loss of social identity
  • forced changes in social activities
  • Politico-economic
  • loss of income arising from an inability to work
  • Environmental
  • forced changes in housing or living arrangements.