Spinal Cord Injuries Are Not Only Caused by Trauma
When people think of spinal cord injury/s or SCI’s, traumatic events like a major auto accident, hard fall, severe sports injury or intense work injury come to mind. It is true that auto accidents are the leading cause, however, non-traumatic accidents and diseases like a spinal tumor can also cause spinal cord injuries.
These types of injuries involve damage to the spinal cord that can temporarily or permanently affect its functionality. Spinal cord injuries are divided into 2 categories: traumatic and non-traumatic. Even with non-traumatic injuries the impact or severity is not lessened and the aftermath can have a devastating effect on a person’s life.
Spinal Cord Injury Trauma
- Vehicle crashes: Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of traumatic spinal cord injuries, and they account for 40% of all SCI’s.
- Falls: Falls are the second cause of traumatic spinal cord injuries, and they account for 32% of injuries.
- Sports: Sports and recreational activities cause around 9.0% of traumatic spinal cord injuries.
- Violence: Violent acts, like gunshot wounds or a stabbing cause around 14% of spinal cord injuries.
Spinal cord injuries occur more in men than women with 80% of cases affecting men.
Although people of all ages can experience SCI, there are activities/events that increase the risk that affects different age groups more than others. An example is high-impact actions like motor vehicle accidents and sports injuries occur more in young adults. Conversely, spinal cord injuries caused by a fall happens more in adults over age 60.
Regardless, SCI occurs more in the neck or cervical spine. Around 60% of cases involve the neck, followed by the mid-back or thoracic spine that averages to around 32% of injuries. Although most people experience low-back pain, only 9% of spinal injuries occur in the low back and tailbone or lumbosacral spine.
Understanding SCI Trauma
Damage to the spinal cord not only affects the area where the point of impact occurred. The primary injury can also damage cells, dislocate the vertebrae and cause spinal compression. It can also trigger secondary injuries, that cause a series of biological changes. This can happen within weeks or months after the injury.
The secondary injury cascade processes:
Glial cells along with the nerve cells in the spinal cord begin to die. These cells provide nutrients and other support to the nerve cells in the central nervous system. This consists of the brain and spinal cord.
The blood vessels in the spinal cord lose their ability to function, and this reduces the blood supply to the cord. When the blood supply becomes inadequate it is called ischemia. Blood vessel injuries expose the cord to inflammatory cells that in turn cause swelling. When the spinal cord becomes inflamed the spinal cord gets more and more compressed. If this happens the initial injury progressively worsens.
This changes the cord’s structure and its normal operation. The secondary injury cascade can interfere with the cord’s ability to heal itself. This means an individual could experience permanent nerve pain and dysfunction.
Spinal cord damage does not only happen with traumatic events. An SCI can also be caused by non-traumatic diseases in the spine. Tumors are the leading cause, but infections and degenerative disc disease can also cause serious damage.
Non-traumatic SCI’s happen more than traumatic based ones. The incidence of traumatic SCI in North America comes to around 54 cases per one million people. With the incidence of non-traumatic SCI is around 1,227 cases per million people.
Healthy Spinal Cord Injury Outcomes
Spine researchers are making great strides in developing optimal protective and regenerative treatments to improve spinal cord health after these injuries occur.
Currently, innovative medical, surgical, cell-based and alternative treatments are furthering the medical community’s understanding of SCI’s. This is dramatically improving the quality of life and creating positive futures for individuals who experience these injuries.
Car Accident Injury Rehabilitation | El Paso, Tx (2020)
The muscles in the back keep the spine moving and functioning properly. When the spine or abdominal muscles are weak this creates a higher probability of a back strain or injury. Having strong, healthy spine muscles are important because they function in maintaining correct posture, which in some cases, causes chronic back pain because of poor posture.
If only one part of the body is strengthened like the back is not enough. Therefore strengthening the rest of the body is a must. These include the body’s core and leg muscles. Total body strength will reduce back pain and can help perform regular activities, like lifting heavy objects much easier, with more confidence and with a lesser probability of injury.