7 Most Common Spinal Injuries & Causes

Nov 24 2022 | ZAYOUNA ADMIN

7 Most Common Spinal Injuries & Causes - Zayouna Law Firm

Next to the brain, the spinal cord is perhaps the second most important part of the body’s nervous system. This bundle of nerves connects the brain to the rest of the body, allowing signals for muscle movement, sensation, and regulation of your heart rate, digestion, temperature, and more to travel.

Given these vital functions of the spinal cord, it is clear that any injury to it would have serious, life-altering effects. Spinal injuries are some of the most devastating life events, not only for you but also for your family.

If you or a loved one were recently in an accident that may have damaged your spine, you need to know exactly what a spinal injury is. There are various types of spinal injuries, each profoundly affecting your life in different ways. Learn about them here and find out when it’s best to talk to a spinal and brain injury lawyer.

What is a spinal cord injury?

A spinal cord injury refers to any damage to the spinal cord or the nerves at the end of the canal.  Depending on the type of spinal cord injury that you suffered, you can experience changes to your motor function, sensation, and regulatory functions, to various degrees of permanent paralysis. Spinal injuries can impact your ability to live independently, earn a living, care for your loved ones, and other day-to-day activities.

Signs and Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury

It’s important to know that a spinal injury isn’t always immediately obvious. Common symptoms such as numbness or paralysis can occur gradually. The longer it goes undetected and untreated, the more likely it is to become severe.

Here are signs of a spinal injury to watch out for:

  • Loss of coordination and movement or paralysis
  • A twisted neck or back
  • Extreme pain in the back and pressure in the neck, head, or back
  • Lost or altered sensation, particularly the ability to feel heat, cold, and touch
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbing, tingling, and loss of sensation in the hands and feet
  • Pain or stinging sensation
  • Difficulty breathing and coughing
  • Difficulty balancing and walking.

If you experience any of these symptoms or significant trauma to the head and neck, it’s important to get medical treatment immediately. A doctor can determine if you have suffered a spinal injury, and inform you of the type and treatment or rehabilitation options.

Types of Spinal Injuries and What Causes Them

There are various types of spinal injuries, ranging from mild and temporary to severe and permanent. These happen when the backbone or vertebrae and its discs compress the cord or damage it directly. Car accidents, slip and falls, sports injuries, accidents during recreational activities, and assault are some of the most common causes.

Here are the types of spinal injuries and their severity:

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Incomplete injuries are the most common type of spinal cord injury. They can cause loss of sensation and motor function below the site of the injury, as well as severe chronic pain.

  1. Anterior and posterior cord syndromes

An anterior syndrome refers to an injury to the front of the spinal cord. Anterior cord syndrome impacts motor functions below the site of the injury, and loss of pain temperature sensations.

  1. Central cord syndrome

Another common type of spinal cord injury is central cord syndrome. This refers to an injury at the centre of the cord, causing motor deficits in the upper extremities. In some cases, it can also cause loss of bladder control and sensory deficits below the injury site. However, it may be possible to recover movement in the legs, though the arms are rare.

  1. Brown-squared syndrome

This happens when only the left or right side of the spinal cord is injured. This type of spinal cord injury causes weakness or paralysis on the same side of the body as the injury. In addition, you may experience loss of pain and temperature sensation on the opposite side of the body.

  1. Cauda Equina Syndrome

This occurs when the bundle of nerves in the lumbar level of the spinal cord is injured. CES causes spinal compression, which weakens the affected muscles. While it doesn’t impact your ability to move, it may cause a loss of sensation. A syndrome with similar symptoms is Conus Medullaris Syndrome, which affects the sacral cord and lumbar nerve roots.

  1. Posterior cord syndrome

In contrast to the anterior cord syndrome, the posterior syndrome results from damage to the back of the spinal cord. It degrades coordination skills.

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

On the other hand, complete injuries occur when the spinal cord is fully compressed or severed. Complete spinal cord injuries result in complete bilateral paralysis. This means, both sides of the body are paralyzed, causing the loss of both sensory and motor functions starting from below the injured area. The extent of the paralysis depends on the type of complete spinal cord injury.

  1. Quadriplegia

Also called tetraplegia, this condition affects both arms and legs, resulting in the loss of movement. The limbs become paralyzed due to a lesion in the cervical spinal cord. The exact location of the injury determines the severity of the paralysis—specifically, whether the loss of motion is permanent or can be reversed with rehabilitation.

  1. Paraplegia

This condition results in paralysis of the legs and the pelvis. However, individuals with paraplegia still have sensory and motor functions in their arms. Paraplegia is caused by a lesion in the thoracic or lumbar areas of the spinal cord. Since the arms are not paralyzed, individuals living with paraplegia can still live independently with rehabilitation, home modifications for accessibility, and other disability benefits.