Spinal Injury: Know Its Causes and Treatment

Spinal Injury

Annually, more than 12,000 people suffer from spinal cord injury. However, most of this type of injury is preventable and placing the right safety measures will save you the cost of going to the ER. Knowing where these injuries can occur will also help you identify which precautions should be implemented.

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama-Birmingham records cases of injuries including spinal injury, yearly. The results have shown that for most of the types of injuries, men have higher cases compared to women. 80% of SCI victims are men, this is because men are prone to engage in activities that risk their spinal cord like sports and other straining acts. Demographics also place younger men high on the count because of their high-risk lifestyle and activities.

Causes of Injury

1. Vehicle-Related Accidents

Vehicular accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States, comprising 40,000 deaths annually. It is not surprising that it’s also the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. If you are a victim of an accident that has caused you SCI you may consult a lawyer for serious back injuries to help you get the assistance you need. Your injury will likely cost you more than medical expenses. Serious injuries may affect your life significantly, as they take our joy and inflict unimaginable pain. It is best to get the best help you’re going to need physically and personally.

Below are other vehicle-related accidents, other than car accidents, that contribute to a number of spinal cord injuries:

  • Motorcycle Accidents – For motorcycle accidents, the lack of protective gear is the leading cause of injuries including spinal cord injury. Approximately 1,695 men and 145 women experienced spinal cord injury resulting from motorcycle accidents.
  • Bicycle Accidents – Recent data shows a decline in incidents of spinal cord injuries with bicycle riders because of adherence to safety and the wearing of protective gear.

2. Falling

There are various reasons why a person falls and it doesn’t have to solely because of age. If a person trips in a flight of stairs or slips in the bathroom, the fall might be hard enough to cause spinal injury. This also includes the injury that incurs when a person faints or suffers from seizures.

3. Diving

Numerous spinal injuries are caused by diving accidents. This can occur from many factors. It can be that the water is too shallow or the person enters the water in an awkward position. Obstructions in the diver’s way can also catastrophic damage to the spine or any other organs.

4. Falling Objects

These accidents can come when you least expect it. Sizeable debris from construction sites or rocks from landslides can do significant harm on the spine. Icicles or hail can also do harm, especially if it comes from a dangerous height and at an angle. The damage from these events can cause permanent damage to the spinal cord and will limit the victim’s abilities indefinitely.

5. Medical Complications

Medical experts are our lifeline to recover from physical injuries and other illnesses. But in some instances, the procedures that they put on a person will advertently cause spinal injury. In 2014 more than 200 male patients suffer spinal injuries from surgeries.

6. Physical Contact (person-to-person)

This may be in the form of an altercation wherein the other person will inflict enough damage that it affects the spine. It can also be an accidental contact where enough force of the contact will cause damage to the other person’s spinal cord.

Types of Spinal Injury and Treatment

1. Cervical Spinal Cord Injury 

This is the top portion of the spine, it is composed of 7 vertebrae (C1 – C7) including the neck. Injuries of this type may incur a permanent and complete or fractional loss in senses and can bring about other complications.

Treatment for this type of injury will focus on stabilizing the injured area. However, damage in this area will likely be permanent. Anti-inflammatory agents are needed to reduce swelling and rehabilitation of the unaffected or the non-paralyzed parts of the body.

2. Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury

The thoracic spinal cord is in the upper down to the middle part of the back. The region is composed of 12 vertebrae and numbered from T-1 to T-12. 

  • The nerves in T-1 through T-5 support the muscles in the upper chest, mid-back and abdominal. They aid in controlling the muscles that make you breathe.
  • The nerves in T-6 through T-12 support the abdominal and back muscles. They are vital to keep your balance and hold your posture. They also aid in expelling bacteria or blockage from your air passage when you cough.

Although the arms and hands may remain normal, injuries of this type will affect the mentioned regions above and may result in paraplegia.

Rehabilitation will have varying results. The person may have control of the arms and upper body motions. The movement will be through a manual wheelchair or the patient can stand with the assistance of a frame or may be able to walk using braces.

3. Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury

The Lumbar spinal cord constitutes the lowest major portion of the spine. It is composed of five vertebrae (L1-L5) under the thoracic spinal cord, on top of the sacral spine section. This carries most of the weight of the other sections of the spinal cord, hence it’s bigger than any of the vertebrae.

  • Injury in L1-L2 affects the bending and flexing of the hips.
  • Injury in L3 affects the bending of the knees.
  • Injury in L4 affects the bending of the foot upward.
  • Injury in L5 affects the bending of the toes.

Treatment will include surgery and anti-inflammatory medicines to stop the swelling. Recovery is dependent on the severity of the trauma, but generally, the patient will regain their movement with rehabilitation.  

4. Sacral Spinal Cord Injury

The sacral spinal cord or the sacrum is situated below the lumbar spinal cord and on top of the coccyx or tailbone. It is composed of 5 bones fused together to make a triangle-shaped sacrum. S1-S5 with the respective nerves affects the different regions when injured:

  • S1 – affects the hips and groin.
  • S2 – affects the hamstring.
  • S3 – affects the medial buttock region.
  • S4 – affects the perineal region.
  • Organs in the pelvic area are controlled by the nerves in the sacral spinal cord. They consequently affect the bladder, sex, and bowel organs.

Treatment will include surgery, anti-inflammatories, and rehabilitation. Recovery will depend on the patient’s pre-trauma conditions and the severity of the damage.

Spinal Injury

The spinal cord is one of the major organs of our body. Although we may take for granted it at times because we are so used to our movement that we don’t think that a big part of our daily actions is due to the support of our spinal cord. We must be wary of the common causes of injury to this part of our body and learn to protect ourselves.