Types, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of spinal cord injury

Damage to the spinal cord or the nerve endings of the spinal canals constitutes spinal cord injury. A permanent change in strength, sensation, and other lower body functions is usually the result of this type of injury. In addition to changing his mentality, emotions, and social life, a spinal cord injury can affect all aspects of his life. It is true that many people can live independent and successful lives with new therapies and rehabilitation. Learn more about spinal cord injuries, their treatment and first aid for spinal cord injuries in this article.

What is spinal cord injury?

The spinal cord carries nerve signals between the brain and other parts of the body. The spinal cord is protected by multilayered tissues called meninges and spine. The most common cause of spinal cord injuries is a sudden, severe blow to the spine. Broken and damaged bones in the spine damage the spinal cord and nerves. In rare cases, the spinal cord can be completely amputated.

A spinal cord injury reduces or destroys sensation and function in the organs below the site of injury. The lumbar spine or thorax is one of the most common sites of injury. One of the most common causes of death and permanent disability in children and adults is this complication.

Types of spinal cord injury

Complete spinal cord injury: This means that the lower part of the injured area is not functional. This includes movement and sensation. It affects both sides equally. Complete injuries can occur anywhere along the spinal cord.

Incomplete damage: The lower parts of the injured site remain functional. It may be possible to move one limb more than another, sense specific parts of the body, or have wider functions on one side of the body over the other. Incomplete spinal cord injuries can affect any part of the spinal cord.

What are the symptoms of a spinal cord injury?

Symptoms of this complication depend on the severity and location of the spinal cord injury. Spinal shock can result in loss of sensation and movement beneath the injury site. An injury to the spinal cord can last for days or weeks. In addition to shock, other symptoms may appear depending on the location of the injury.

The more severe the symptoms are, the higher the site of the spinal cord injury is. Damage to the cervical vertebrae 2 and 3 (second and third vertebrae of the spine) affects the respiratory muscles and the ability to breathe. Injury to the lower vertebrae, such as the lumbar vertebrae, can affect the nerves and muscles that control the bladder, intestines, and legs.


In a series of tests, the doctor and the care team determine the severity and location of the spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Loss of movement;
  • loss of emotions such as heat, cold, or touch;
  • inability to control bladder or bowel movements;
  • severe involuntary responses;
  • changes in sexual function and fertility;
  • Pain or burning caused by nerve damage in the spinal cord;
  • Lung secretions, coughing, and impaired breathing.

Emergency signs of spinal cord injury after an accident include:

  • Back pain or pressure in the neck, head, and back;
  • Weakness, inconsistency, or paralysis in any part of the body;
  • A feeling of numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation in the hands, feet, and fingers;
  • loss of bladder and bowel control;
  • altered balance and gait;
  • difficulty breathing after injury;
  • twisted waist or neck.

A spinal cord injury can be caused by damage to the spine, lumbar discs, tendons or the spinal cord itself. A spinal cord injury is caused by a sudden blow to the spinal cord and can lead to rupture, dislocation, crushing, or compression of the spinal column. Bullets and knives can also penetrate the spine and rupture the spinal cord.

As swelling, bleeding, and fluid accumulate around the spinal cord in the days and weeks following the accident, more damage may occur. Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries are caused by the following factors:

  • Osteoarthritis;
  • Cancer;
  • Inflammation;
  • Infection;

Spinal disc analysis

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries and account for half of all spinal cord injuries each year.

The most common cause of spinal cord injury after 65 is a fall.

Violence: About 12% of spinal cord injuries are caused by severe collisions, such as bullets or stab wounds.

Sports injuries and recreational injuries: Sports activities such as active sports and diving in shallow water cause 10% of spinal cord injuries.


Diagnosis of spinal cord injury

A doctor will ensure that a spinal cord injury does not affect your breathing or heart rate in an emergency. Check these neural functions:

the ability to move your limbs;
sensory functions, such as touch.
Imaging tests can be used to diagnose spinal cord injury, including:

CT scan: To check for broken bones, blood clots or damaged blood vessels.
MRI: To examine the spinal cord or soft tissues.
X-ray: To observe broken or dislocated bones.
The electromyogram or EMG test is also used to check electrical activity in muscles and nerve cells. Obviously, this test is not necessary, but is performed if peripheral nerve damage is associated with spinal cord injury.

What is the immediate treatment for spinal cord injury?
Emergency spinal surgery may be required. Also, spinal cord surgery is performed to treat injuries caused by bone fractures, blood clots, and damaged tissues.

The injection of corticosteroids may be helpful in some cases, according to some studies.

  • Improve blood flow;
  • Maintain nerve function;
  • Reduce inflammation.

The most important long-term goals of spinal cord injury rehabilitation are:

Enhancing the quality of life and independence of the patient;

reducing the risk of chronic or long-term complications;

regaining some nerve function in cases of incomplete injury.

The most important long-term complications of spinal cord injury are:

an inability to regulate blood pressure or body temperature;

an increased risk of heart disease or lung disease;

inability to control bladder and bowel movements;

arm or leg paralysis;

chronic pain;

muscle spasms;

sexual dysfunction.

Rehabilitation after spinal surgery.

Most people with spinal cord injuries require physical therapy. Patients may receive rehabilitation treatment with or without hospitalization.

Learn how to use assistive devices such as crutches and wheelchairs.
Restoring strength and movement to areas with nerve function;
Become familiar with the skills needed for daily activities such as getting dressed and taking a bath.
Artificial nerves are one of the innovative treatments for spinal cord injuries. Artificial nerves can replace the lost nerves, just as artificial limbs can replace lost organs. An electrical device connects healthy nerves in this method. These nerves allow the immobile parts of the body to regain movement by controlling the artificial nerves.

Prevention of spinal cord injury

by driving carefully. Traffic accidents are a major cause of spinal cord injury. Always wear your seatbelt. You should make sure your child has the right seat and belt for his or her age and weight. In order to avoid airbag damage, children under the age of 12 should sit in the back seat.

Make sure the water is deep before diving in. Never dive into a pool that is less than 3.7 meters deep.

Access objects at heights with short, hand-held stools. Handrails on stairs and non-slip floors in bathrooms can help prevent falls. Lock the stairs and use window guards to prevent children from falling.

When you suspect someone has a spinal cord injury, do not move them at all. This can result in permanent paralysis and other serious complications. The following symptoms may indicate spinal cord damage:

  • The individual’s level of consciousness is constantly changing, and there is evidence of head trauma.
  • The individual feels severe pain in the neck or back.
  • The injury places extra strain on the neck or head.
  • Weak, numb, or paralyzed, or unable to control limbs, bladder, or intestines.
  • The neck or body is twisted.

People with spinal cord injuries should:

Call the emergency room
keep them still. Hold the head and neck to prevent them from moving by placing heavy towels or tubular sheets on either side.

Do not move your head or neck. Give first aid as much as possible without shaking the casualty’s head or neck. When there is no sign of blood flow (breathing, coughing, or shaking), begin resuscitation, but do not pull the head back to open the airway. Grab the jaw gently and bring it forward. Perform a heart resuscitation if the person does not have a heartbeat.

The spinal cord or surrounding tissues and bones may be damaged in a back or neck spinal cord injury. The severity of this complication can have long-term effects. The most important way to prevent spinal cord injury and other types of spinal cord injury is to take precautions and follow safety tips. It is also important to remember first aid procedures and make sure the casualty is healthy.

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