Spinal Cord Injury

The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system, along with the brain. The spinal cord runs from the base of the brain to the waist. It contains nerve cells that carry signals between the brain and the body.

SCI Causes

Most spinal cord injuries are caused by a sudden, traumatic injury to the spine that breaks or dislocates vertebrae. The bone fragments or other injured material can tear or damage the spinal cord tissue. In other cases, the spinal cord is cut by an event such as a gunshot or knife wound. Bleeding and swelling following the initial injury can cause additional spinal cord damage.

Spinal cord injury can be caused by traumatic and nontraumatic events. The most common traumatic spinal cord injury causes include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Acts of violence (gunshot and knife wounds)
  • Falls
  • Sports and recreation injuries

Some diseases can cause nontraumatic spinal cord injury, including:

Spinal cord injury can result in partial or complete paralysis. The affected area usually occurs below the area of the spinal cord that was injured.

SCI Symptoms

  • Severe pain or stinging sensation in the neck or back
  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of sensation, including inability to feel:
    • Heat
    • Cold
    • Touch
    • Pressure
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Spasms or exaggerated reflexes
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing
  • A twisted or oddly positioned neck or back

Diagnosis

Treatment

  • Medication
  • Immobilization, including traction
  • Surgery
  • Acute rehabilitation