A spinal cord injury involves damage to the dense nerve bundle running from the brain to the lower back. The spinal cord is enclosed in the hollow center of the spine. The spinal cord is enclosed and cushioned from injury by the spinal bones and spinal fluid where the cord floats.
Damage to the spinal cord can lead to disruptions in the transmission of signals between the brain and other body parts. In case the spinal cord is simply bruised or enlarged due to an injury, the nerves can still heal. Nevertheless, if the nerves were cut, crushed or torn, the damaged nerves could not heal and unable to transmit signals to and from the brain.
What are the causes?
The spinal cord might be damaged if the individual sustained back injuries that:
- Damages or shifts the bones surrounding the spinal cord
- Penetrates through or amidst the bones
Some of the usual causes of spinal cord injury include:
- Falls from great heights
- Vehicular accidents
- Diving into low water
- Sports such as football, hockey, surfing and water skiing
- Injuries such as gunshots or stab wounds
What are the indications?
The signs of a spinal cord injury are based on the degree and site of the spinal cord that is damaged.
The injury can cause any of the following:
- Tingling sensation
- Inability to move the body parts
- Difficulty breathing with assistance
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
Management of spinal cord injury
A spinal cord injury is considered as a medical emergency that necessitates hospitalization. The injury requires careful monitoring especially in the initial 24 hours.
After the injury, the spine is immobilized to prevent further injury. This is done by using a stiff neck collar and spinal board for the middle and lower back. After some time, the treatment might include:
- Spinal traction which pulls the bones back into their normal position
- Surgery to lessen the pressure on the spinal cord from a disc or bone that is pressing on it.
- Medications such as steroids are given to reduce the swelling around the spinal cord.
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on a spinal cord injury is for learning purposes only. Learn more about the possible causes and how it is managed by taking a standard first aid course with Vancouver First Aid.