An injury to the spinal column can happen in a variety of ways. Falls are the most common cause, especially for those over 65. However, the highest percentages of spinal cord injuries occur among those between the ages of 16 and 30. Men are more likely to sustain a spinal cord injury while playing sports. Other causes can be auto accidents or gunshot wounds.
The spinal column runs from the neck to the tailbone and has four sections: the cervical vertebrae, which is nearly the neck; thoracic vertebrae, which is in the middle; lumbar in the lower back; and the sacrum at the tail end. Typically, the closer the injury is to the brain, the more severe it will be. Often, injuries in the cervical area cause loss of body movement and feeling.
Spinal cord injuries require immediate medical attention. Some common symptoms are:
1. Loss of function below the injury.
2. Extreme pain or pressure in the head, neck or back.
3. Tingling sensation or complete loss of feeling in hand, fingers, feet or toes.
4. Partial or complete loss of control over one or more body parts.
5. Loss of bladder or bowel control.
6. Impaired balance or walking.
7. Pain or pressure in the thorax area.
8. Impaired breathing.
9. Strange bumps on the head or spine.
If you or a loved one suffered a spinal injury, your physician will conduct a radiological evaluation, which is typically done with an x-ray. Sometimes it will be done with a CT scan or MRI. The MRI is most often used for those who are known to have a spinal cord injury and is great for detecting herniated discs or blood clots.
Treatments depend on severity and can range from a collar to keep the neck immobilized while it heals to traction or surgery. Recovery also depends on the severity of the injury. Wearing seatbelts, having children under 12 ride in the backseat only, keeping floors at home free and clear from debris, lighting living areas well, as well as following safety tips and rules for sports and recreational activities will help keep you and your family injury free.