Spinal cord is a major bundle of nerves that runs down the middle of your back conducting impulses to and from the brain to the rest of the body. It is usually surrounded and protected by the rings of bones, called vertebra. These bones constitute the vertebral column or backbone.
A spinal cord injury can be the result of direct trauma to the nerves or indirect damage to the soft tissues, bones, and vessels surrounding the spinal cord. Spinal cord injury results in the permanent changes in strength, sensation, and other body functions below the site of the injury. The spinal cord injury is not always a complete cut off of the cord. It can be either bruising or tearing of nerves as well.
The spinal cord injuries can be of two types; either a complete damage with loss of both sensory and motor function or an incomplete damage with the loss of either of them.
The signs and symptoms of spinal cord injury depend on two factors which include the place of the injury on the spinal cord and the severity of the injury.
Spinal cord injuries may result in one or more signs, and symptoms mentioned below:
Spinal cord injuries can be minimized by following some safety measures. For example-Driving safely by wearing seat belts can avoid injuries during auto accidents. Checking the depth of the water before diving can prevent injuries. Practicing safety measures such as using a stool or watching your steps can avoid falls. Taking precautions before involving in any sports can avoid injuries.
Spinal cord injuries are usually caused due to severe trauma. Sometimes even when a person sustains a break in the backbone, there may not be any spinal cord injury.
The common causes of spinal cord injuries are auto accidents, falls, acts of violence, injuries due to sports and recreation, alcohol and few diseases such as cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of the spinal cord.
Areas often affected due to spinal cord injury and damage includes:
Spinal cord injury is a medical emergency. Your doctor may diagnose spinal injury with careful inspection, evaluation your sensory function and movements and may ask few questions about the incident.
Emergency diagnostic tests may be needed if you suffer from neck pain, unconsciousness or has signs of neurological injury.
These tests include:
A neurological examination is conducted to determine the level of your injury once the swelling has subsided. The neurological examination involves testing your muscle strength and your ability to sense light touch and a pinprick.
Treatment for spinal cord injuries includes:Medications: Intravenous administration of methylprednisolone is an immediate treatment option for an acute spinal cord injury. This medication when given within eight hours of injury shows mild improvement in few people.
Some of the risk factors which may lead to spinal cord injuries include: