– The Cause May Be Different Than You Think
The term spinal cord injury described at spinaltimes.org covers damage to the spinal cord, generally resulting from trauma (a vehicle accident or fall) or from degenerative or disease processes. There’s no accurate figure for global incidence, but the most estimated yearly global incidence is around 40 to 80 instances per million human populations. It is among the most common conditions in the world. The largest known spinal cord injury case was a child with suspected cerebral palsy who lived in a state of shock following a car accident. While the exact cause of this injury is unknown, it is a reminder that even minor traumas to the spinal cord can cause lasting and harmful effects.
Traumatic spinal cord injury can have many forms. Some are associated with diseases and their treatments; others are caused by normal, unavoidable incidents. Some spinal cord injuries result from sports-related accidents and serious falls; others are the result of serious abuse (rape, abuse against children, etc.). Still, others are the result of repetitive strain or overloading. In any event, the results are devastating to the victim and those who care for them. Many people are left devastated by the death of a loved one because they never had a chance to help them.
The usual causes of spinal cord injury include car crashes, sports injuries, or falls. These injuries normally involve multiple joints or more than one vertebrae. Common signs and symptoms include weakness, numbness, paralysis of particular limbs, severe pain and/or tingling, loss of bladder or bowel control, and irregular pulse, breathing difficulty, sweating, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Because these symptoms are so commonly seen in patients who have suffered spinal cord injury, physicians always check for these signs in patients in the intensive care unit, the hospital, or when they arrive home from the hospital.
When there is a spinal cord injury, the area affected (the region where the nerve is) is called the crush zone. This is an abnormal area of the body where the tissue crush happens to be much tighter than normal. Normally, the nerves travel from the central nervous system (the brain) through the crush zone, which is usually about six inches below the eyes. However, if trauma has occurred, the nerves may travel much farther than six inches below the eyes, through the hypochondria. In other words, the spinal cord injury may cause the nerves to go in and out of the hypochondria instead of smoothly going through it as it should.
If trauma has occurred, the injured person will usually be placed in a neck brace. This keeps the neck in the upright position so that gravity does not cause damage to the spinal column. Once a brace is on, the patient can be kept in the upright position using a special pillow called a cervical collar. The cervical collar fits around the neck and over the shoulders and back. It prevents the spine from bending so that when the person moves, the body retains its position rather than being thrown back and forth by the acceleration through the discs of the spinal cord.
There are some individuals who have spinal cord injuries that do not involve injuries to their disc. This can happen because the spinal cord injury is not as severe. The individual may only experience mild tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, or they may only be temporarily paralyzed. This is common in cases where the injuries are caused by car accidents and falls. More serious spinal cord injuries may result in complete paralysis or death.
Another common cause of spinal cord injury is a non-traumatic injury (i.e. an accident), which can occur in a wide variety of ways. Neck and back injuries are the most common causes of spinal cord injury, as are burns, strokes, and other serious diseases. Trauma to the neck can lead to a bulging disc, which can result in either a non-traumatic injury, such as a whiplash injury, or a traumatic injury, such as a stroke.
Traumatic injuries such as a fall or a car accident can lead to more serious spinal cord injuries, such as a herniated disc. In these cases, the inner gel of the disc becomes bulged and is called a slipped disc. Some experts believe that it is impossible to pre-diagnose spinal cord injuries, as many physicians cannot accurately assess the amount of pressure being put on an area without knowing how much movement there is within that space. In addition, many times, spinal cord injuries are caused by non-traumatic events such as abuse or trauma. For example, a child may sustain a neck injury from hitting their head on a table, a sports player may get a back injury by falling into a bench while jumping for a ball, or a woman might receive a scalp injury while washing laundry. In some cases, trauma alone may not lead to spinal cord injury, but if other conditions are present, then a trauma might be the cause.