Common Spinal Injuries
Spinal injuries are caused by any damage to any area of the spinal cord or surrounding nerves. Spinal injuries can be painful, debilitating and life-altering. They can alter a person’s strength, sensation and other body functions permanently. The ability to control your body function and movement following a spinal injury will depend on the location of the injury on the spinal cord and its severity.
Spinal injury causes
Common spinal injuries can be brought on by a number of factors:
- Motor vehicle accidents – The leading cause of spinal cord injuries, auto and motorcycle accidents are responsible for more than 35 percent of spinal cord injuries each year.
- Falls – Falls are the cause of more than 25 percent of spinal cord injuries. This risk increases in people over the age of 65.
- Sports and recreation injuries – Sports and other related injuries account for nine percent of spinal cord injuries.
- Acts of violence – Unfortunately, 15 percent of spinal cord injuries occur in violent events involving gunshot or knife wounds.
- Alcohol – The use of alcohol plays a role in one in every four spinal injuries.
- Certain diseases – Transverse myelitis, polio, spina bifida, Friedreich’s ataxia, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of the spinal cord can cause spinal trauma.
Types of spinal injury
There are two types of spinal injury, complete and incomplete. A complete injury results in the loss of all ability to feel and voluntarily move below the level of the injury. Almost all feeling and all ability to control movement are lost below the injury of the spinal cord. An incomplete injury allows for some function and ability below the level of the injury. There are varying degrees of incomplete injury. Paralysis from a spinal cord injury may also be referred to as:
- Tetraplegia – Also called quadriplegia, the arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by the spinal cord injury
- Paraplegia – Affects all or parts of the torso, legs and pelvic organs.
Symptoms of spinal injury
There are a number of signs and symptoms that point to a spinal cord injury. These can vary in severity, and they include:
- Loss of movement
- Numbness, including the inability to feel heat, cold and touch
- Intensified reflex activities or spasms
- Sexual function issues, sexual sensitivity and fertility
- Pain or intense stinging sensations
- Trouble breathing, coughing or clearing secretions from the lungs
Additionally, if you are experiencing the following symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Severe, unbearable back pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back
- Weakness, coordination issues or paralysis in any area of the body
- An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Trouble balancing or walking
- Impaired breathing