Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are the result of damage caused to the cells and nerves that transmit signals between the brain and the rest of the body. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are about 17,730 new spinal cord injuries each year. Car crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries accounting for 39.9% of all injuries, closely followed by falls accounting for 31.8% of injuries.
Symptoms of spinal cord injuries will depend on the severity of the injury and the location in the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can be complete or incomplete. Incomplete spinal cord injuries may result in the loss of strength, sensation, and/or function below the site of the injury. On the other hand, complete spinal cord injury means the cord cannot send signals below the level of the injury and results in paralysis.
Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may include physical therapy, chiropractic adjustment, occupational therapy, electrical stimulation, or surgery. People with a spinal cord injury are two to five times more likely to die prematurely than people without a spinal cord injury according to the World Health Organization(WHO).
Other Spine Injuries
While spinal cord injuries are the most dangerous type of injuries to the spine, injuries can occur to the spine that do not affect the cord, although they are often very painful. Other types of spine injuries can include:
- Bulging Discs: discs compress because of age or trauma, causing the outer layers of the disc to bulge into the spinal canal, possibly causing nerve compression.
- Herniated Discs: when a hole forms in the outer layer of the disc causing some of the inner material to escape into the spinal canal. Herniated discs are more likely to cause nerve compression than bulging discs.
Symptoms will depend on the severity of the injury to the disc and in addition to pain at the site of the injury may include weakness, numbness, or tingling in the shoulders, arms, buttocks, or legs. You may also experience radiating pain into the extremities.
Bulging or herniated discs often are not diagnosed until the symptoms have persisted for some time. This is because x-rays do not show bulging or herniated discs. A CT scan or MRI will determine if an injury victim has a bulging or herniated disc; however, given the expense of these diagnostic tests, they are not often ordered unless the symptoms do not resolve, or if conservative forms of treatment have not resolved the symptoms. Treatment for bulging/herniated discs may include anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, physical therapy, or surgery.