Taking trunk control for granted

If you’re not familiar with the term “trunk control”, then you probably take it for granted. Trunk control, in the world of spinal cord injury, refers to, among other things, the ability to sit up by yourself and your abdominal strength. In some injuries, there are varying degrees of loss of trunk control.

I’m thinking that more of us with spinal cord injuries should be writing about trunk control. We talk about it amongst ourselves. It’s not like we ask each other “Hey, how’s that trunk control doing?” because it’s pretty constant. But when we are getting to know each other, it’s something we do mention. “Gee, you have pretty good trunk control for a quad” is a good opening line in sci circles.

Although I do have good trunk control for a quad, I have a tendency to lean to one side. This means that if I transfer onto a surface that doesn’t have two arms to hold me up, such as a couch , I have to find a way to position myself so that I can lean against a support. Pews, I’m afraid, are out. They’re made of hard wood and it hurts if you fall.

Since people take trunk control for granted and do things like sitting down quickly on a cushion on the same couch next to me – causing me to do a face plant if I’m caught unawares – or plop down quickly causing a “seesaw” effect on the cushions, some pretty amusing things have happened over the years. Although this kind of thing can help you get to know people quickly at parties, it is socially inappropriate.

However couches don’t come with any kind of straps or lap belts as an accessible option and, in large part, I think it’s because we haven’t talked enough about trunk control – or the variations thereof. So we won’t see Lazyboy advertising any couches or recliners with a Trunk Control Assist option. (Believe me, if you put a recliner in forward when you have poor trunk control the landing is quite dramatic.)

It’s a shame that we all continue to take trunk control for granted. We already have the technology we need to address this. Let’s face it, we all use Trunk Control Assists in our cars all the time.

They’re called seat belts.

Copyright 2007 Ruth Harrigan


Filed under essay

5 responses to “Taking trunk control for granted

  1. j3n


    I just wanted to let you know…

    Finding your blog last week, the essays I’ve read have captured my attention and filled me with great interest to respond, unfortunately, writing has been put aside at the moment, for school responsibilities. Though not disabled, at least not in the manner of your essays’ focus, I still find their themes applicable to my life. Thanks.

    More, soon…


  2. I agree! I hav e horrible trunk control…because noboy bothered to mention I could lose it if I realied too much on the armrests of y wheelchair. I am workingon getting it back, but it is a long process.

  3. Thank you both for your comments and stopping by. John, it’s good to hear that you relate to a lot of themes raised here. I look forward to more comments from you on future visits!

    Sarah, I wish you luck with your trunk control issues. I think it’s difficult sometimes to gauge when we’re losing function/why and it’s good to see an improvement in the awareness (in general) by folks about maintaining function – when possible and also balancing that out with going about things in a safe and manageable way. I’ve read some great articles in mags like New Mobility, Action by United Spinal and other places about these issues based on experiences by people – it really helps.

  4. rorry banu

    I want to know the definition of trunk control in cerebral palsy
    Thank’s a lot…

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