Spinal cord if a soft, jelly like structure which is protected by the spinal column. This spiral column is made up of 33 bones which are called vertebrae. Each vertebra has a circular opening which is similar to the hole in a donut. The bones are stacked one on top of the other and the spinal cord runs through the hollow channel created by the holes in the stacked bones. The vertebrae can be organized into sections, and are named and numbered from top to bottom according to their location along the backbone.
Although the hard bones covering the spinal column protects the soft tissues, vertebrae can still be broken or dislocated in different ways and cause traumatic injury to the spinal cord. The segment and the severity of the spinal cord that is injured will determine which body functions are compromised or lost.
What is a spinal cord injury?
Spinal Cord Injury can cause inability to motor function of limbs. It can be classified into two parts Complete & Incomplete, which in turn depends on the severity of the injury or relation to the location of the injury with respect to spine. If the motor function or sensory function gets totally lost below affected area, it is called complete; and if there is partial loss of sensory or motor function than it is called an incomplete injury.
Signs and Symptoms of spinal cord injury:
Common signs & symptoms of spinal cord injury are as follows:
- Loss of movement in limbs or some body part.
- Loss of sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold and touch sensations.
- Loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms.
- Changes in sexual courses, sexual sensitivity.
- Pain or an intense stinging sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers in your spinal cord.
- Difficult inbreathing, coughing followed by secretions from your lungs.
Conditions in the spine post any trauma:
There are also some emergency symptoms of spinal cord injury which usually happens in case of accidents:
- Extreme back or neck pain or inability to rotate neck and stiffness.
- Unable to keep body balance and keep body posture maintained.
- It can have weakness, numbness or paralysis in any body part.
- Impaired Breathing after the accident.
- Twisted neck or shoulder after accident.
As a spine neurosurgery doctor, I would emphasize that time between the injury & treatment is very critical. The chances of recovery are increased if the patients gets medical care as earliest. Not all spinal injuries are serious but they can be dangerous if the time between accident & treatment is very large.