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What is spinal injury?

Spinal injury is the result of a direct trauma to the nerves themselves or indirect damage to the bones and soft tissues and vessels surrounding the spinal cord.

Spinal cord damage results in a loss of function, such as mobility or feeling. In most people who have spinal injury, the spinal cord is not completely severed but either bruised or torn. Spinal injury is not the same as the back injury, which may result from pinched nerves or ruptured disks. Even when a person sustains a break in a vertebra or vertebrae, there may not be any spinal injury if the spinal cord itself is not affected.

It is an extremely serious type of physical trauma that is likely to have a lasting and significant impact on most aspects of daily life.

How common is spinal injury?

Spinal injury in socioeconomically advanced countries has a probably annual incidence rate of 3 per 100,000 population. Males are affected five times as often as females.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of spinal injury?

Spinal injuries of any kind may result in one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold and touch
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
  • Changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity and fertility
  • Pain or an intense stinging sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers in your spinal cord
  • Difficulty breathing, coughing or clearing secretions from your lungs.

These are some emergency signs and symptoms you must see your doctor immediately, they include:

  • Extreme back pain or pressure in your neck, head or back
  • Weakness, incoordination or paralysis in any part of your body
  • Numbness, tingling or loss of sensation in your hands, fingers, feet or toes
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Difficulty with balance and walking
  • Impaired breathing after injury
  • An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back

Additionally, paralysis from a spinal injury may be referred to as:

  • Tetraplegia. Also known as quadriplegia, this means your arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by your spinal injury.
  • Paraplegia. This paralysis affects all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs.

When should I see my doctor?

Anyone who experiences significant trauma to his or her head or neck needs immediate medical evaluation for the possibility of a spinal injury. In fact, it is safest to assume that trauma victims have a spinal injury until proven otherwise because:

  • A serious spinal injury is not always immediately obvious. If it is not recognized, more severe injury may occur.
  • Numbness or paralysis may develop immediately or come on gradually as bleeding or swelling occurs in or around the spinal cord.
  • The time between injury and treatment can be critical in determining the extent of complications and the amount of recovery.

Or if you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes spinal injury?

A spinal injury is often the consequence of an unpredictable accident or violent event. The following can all result in damage to the spinal cord:

  • A violent attack such as a stabbing or a gunshot
  • Diving into water that’s too shallow and hitting the bottom
  • Trauma during a car accident (specifically trauma to the face, head and neck region, back, or chest area)
  • Falling from a significant height
  • Head or spinal injuries during sporting events
  • Electrical accidents
  • Severe twisting of the middle portion of the torso.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for spinal injury?

Some risks may increase the rate of causing this condition, include:

  • Not wearing a seatbelt while in a car
  • Not wearing proper protective gear while playing sports

Diving into water while you have not examined it first to make sure it is deep or not and free of rocks

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.


How is spinal injury diagnosed?

In the emergency room, a doctor is capable of ruling out a spinal injury by careful inspection, testing for sensory function and movement and asking some questions about the accident.

But if the injured person complains of neck pain, is not fully awake or has obvious signs of weakness or neurological injury, emergency diagnostic tests may be needed.

These tests may include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • X-rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

How is spinal injury treated?

Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord. But researchers are continually working on new treatments, including prostheses and medications that may promote nerve cell regeneration or improve the function of the nerves that remain after a spinal injury.

In the meantime, spinal injury treatment focuses on preventing further injury and empowering people with a spinal injury to return to an active and productive life.

In the emergency situation, you must follow the procedure below:

  • Call emergency
  • Don’t move the person or disturb them
  • Encourage the person to stay as still as possible
  • Performing CPR

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage spinal injury?

Because spinal cord injuries are often due to unpredictable events, the best you can do is reduce your risk. Some risk-reducing measures include:

  • Always wearing a seatbelt while in a car
  • Wearing proper protective gear while playing sports
  • Never diving into water unless you have examined it first to make sure it is deep enough and free of rocks

Or if you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: March 14, 2017 | Last Modified: March 14, 2017