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Spine Injury

The spinal cord contains the nerves that carry messages between your brain and body. The cord passes through your neck and back. A spinal cord injury is very serious because it can cause loss of movement (paralysis) below the site of the injury.


Causes

A spinal cord injury may be caused by:

  • Bullet or stab wound
  • Traumatic injury to the face, neck, head, chest, or back (for example, a car accident)
  • Diving accident
  • Electric shock
  • Extreme twisting of the middle of the body
  • Landing on the head during a sports injury
  • Fall from a great height

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of a spinal cord injury may include:

  • Head that is in an unusual position
  • Numbness or tingling that spreads down an arm or leg
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Paralysis (loss of movement) of arms or legs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Shock (pale, clammy skin; bluish lips and fingernails; acting dazed or semiconscious)
  • Lack of alertness (unconsciousness)
  • Stiff neck, headache, or neck pain

  • Treatment

    Treatment options are limited, but prosthetic technologies and therapeutic drugs that may help nerve cells regenerate or improve how well remaining nerves function are being developed.
    Immediately after an accident, emergency responders immobilize the spine using a stiff neck collar and carrying board in order to transport the patient. Emergency treatment involves maintaining breathing ability, preventing shock, keeping the neck immobilized, and preventing complications such as blood clots.
    Once a patient is diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, they may receive medications, such as Methylprednisolone (Medrol), which can cause mild improvement in some patients, if taken within eight hours of injury. Doctors may use traction (often by attaching metal braces and weights to the skull to prevent it moving) to stabilize the spine and/or realign it. Surgery may be needed to remove fragments of bone, herniated disks, fractured vertebrae or foreign objects, or to stabilize the spine to minimize pain or future deformity.