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Spinal cord injuries and trauma

Spinal cord injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, including traumatic and non-traumatic events. Traumatic spinal cord injuries are often caused by accidents, such as car crashes, falls, and sports-related injuries. Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries can be caused by conditions such as arthritiscancer, infections, and disc degeneration. Other potential causes of spinal cord injuries include violence, such as gunshot or stab wounds, and medical malpractice. It is important to take steps to prevent spinal cord injuries when possible, such as wearing seat belts, using proper safety equipment during sports and recreational activities, and seeking prompt medical attention for any signs or symptoms of spinal cord injury.

Symptoms of a spinal cord injury

  • Loss of movement or sensation in the arms, legs, or trunk
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Pain or pressure in the back, neck, or head
  • Numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the extremities
  • Muscle spasms or contractions
  • Difficulty with coordination or balance


Treatment options for a spinal cord injury

The treatment for a spinal cord injury depends on the severity and location of the injury. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to stabilize the spine and prevent further damage to the spinal cord. Other treatments may include:

  • Immobilization: In some cases, a brace or other device may be used to immobilize the spine and prevent further injury.
  • Medications: Medications may be used to manage pain, reduce inflammation, prevent muscle spasms, and manage other symptoms associated with the injury.
  • Rehabilitation: Physical therapy and rehabilitation may be used to help restore function and mobility to the affected areas of the body.
  • Assistive devices: Devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, and braces may be used to help individuals with spinal cord injuries to move around and perform daily activities.
  • Counseling and support: Counseling and support groups may be beneficial for individuals and their families to cope with the emotional and psychological effects of a spinal cord injury.


Tips for preventing a spinal cord injury

Preventing a spinal cord injury involves taking steps to reduce the risk of accidents or trauma that can lead to these types of injuries. Some ways to prevent spinal cord injuries include:

  • Always wear a seatbelt while driving or riding in a vehicle.
  • Wear proper safety gear while participating in sports or recreational activities, such as helmets and pads.
  • Use caution when diving into water, ensuring that the water is deep enough and free of obstacles.
  • Avoid risky behaviors, such as reckless driving or drug and alcohol use.
  • Take steps to prevent falls, such as installing handrails and non-slip flooring in the home.
  • Practice safe lifting techniques to avoid straining the back or neck.
  • Avoid dangerous work conditions and use proper protective gear in the workplace.
  • Seek treatment for medical conditions that can weaken the bones or increase the risk of falls.


A St. Joseph Health neurologist can help provide a personalized treatment plan and answer questions you may have about spinal cord injuries. 

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