Spinal Cord Injury

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

Most spinal cord injuries develop due to trauma which damages the vertebrae protecting the spinal cord. Some rare diseases and congenital conditions can also result in injury to the cord due to a weakened spinal column, blood flow problems, or rupturing of the protective sheath around the cord.

Since the 31 major nerves of the body emerge directly from the spinal cord, damage to it can shut down your organs, affect your ability to move, or shut down your autonomous body functions like breathing and circulation.

What are the Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury?

Symptoms depend on the amount of damage to the cord and the location of the compression or swelling. Paralysis and lack of sensation are the primary symptoms associated with spinal damage. Spinal cord injuries are rated by severity, ranging from no effect on motor function to complete loss of movement.

Other symptoms associated with severe cord injuries include loss of bladder and bowel control, trouble breathing, depressed heart rate, lack of circulation, and muscle spasms.

Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

Vehicle accidents cause the most frequent incidences of spinal cord injuries, followed by falls involving elderly individuals. Most spinal cord injuries happen during normal activities; sporting events, at work or at home. Injuries range from minor to serious distress of the spinal cord. This injury also occurs from health conditions, disease or partial development or abnormalities of the spinal cord leading to further spinal trauma.

Physical attacks can damage the spine’s vertebrae or nerves, as gunshot or knife wounds severing the spinal cord causes serious damage. The injury worsens with heavy bleeding, inflammation and accumulated fluid, sometimes, shutting down the body’s senses and functions. Depending on the location of the injury and the severity, the injury may be temporary or permanent, rendering the person incapable of movement.

Spinal Cord Injury Causes

Vehicle accidents cause the most frequent incidences of spinal cord injuries, followed by falls involving elderly individuals. Most spinal cord injuries happen during normal activities; sporting events, at work or at home. Injuries range from minor to serious distress of the spinal cord. This injury also occurs from health conditions, disease or partial development or abnormalities of the spinal cord leading to further spinal trauma.

Physical attacks can damage the spine’s vertebrae or nerves, as gunshot or knife wounds severing the spinal cord causes serious damage. The injury worsens with heavy bleeding, inflammation and accumulated fluid, sometimes, shutting down the body’s senses and functions. Depending on the location of the injury and the severity, the injury may be temporary or permanent, rendering the person incapable of movement.

How is a Spinal Cord Injury Treated?

Most spinal cord injuries are emergencies that require emergency treatment. With prompt surgery to reduce compression on the cord due to a fractured vertebrae or tumor, the cord can be preserved and permanent paralysis is often prevented.

Even if paralysis sets in, many patients recover some or all of their motor functions with intensive physical therapy and rehabilitation. Each spinal cord injury must be treated based on the cause of the damage, so one case may require medication while the next calls for surgery.

Spinal Cord Injury Prevention

Caution is the best prevention of spinal cord injuries, although in some instances, there is nothing that could have prevented the injury. There are measures to increase your safety and prevent a spinal cord injury.

Children and adults should always wear a seatbelt while riding in a motor vehicle and try to avoid distractions when driving, like taking cellular calls or texting. Pay attention to the road and the other drivers, along with no drinking or drugs, since they influence your behavior and affect the safety of the passengers and other drivers.

At home and work, keep the floors uncluttered and try to prevent accidental slips or falls. When using the stairs, take advantage of the handrails – they can support your body weight and prevent accidents. Our lives are filled with movement. When participating in sports, wear the proper safety equipment to protect against spinal injuries. Replace worn out equipment as it’s easier to replace old equipment than it is to repair your spinal cord.

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Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
November 21, 2017