The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that serves as the pathway for sending messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Spinal cord injuries involve damage to those nerves. Spinal cord injuries are often caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, violence (gunshots or knife wounds), sports and recreational activities, disease or surgical complications.
The backbone consists of vertebrae, the bones that surround the spinal cord. Back injuries, such as pinched nerves or ruptured discs, are not the same as spinal cord injuries. While broken/displaced vertebrae or herniated discs do not necessarily cause spinal cord injuries, they can affect the spinal cord itself. Typically with spinal cord injuries, the spinal cord is not completely severed, but instead is bruised, irritated or partially torn.
Injuries to vertebrae or discs can cause them to press on the spinal cord or nerve roots which extend from the spinal cord. Pressure on the spinal cord or its nerve roots can injure the cord or nerve roots or can cause irritation and pain. This pain can sometimes be felt as radiating pain down the arm or leg which that portion of the spinal cord or nerve root supplies. Surgery is often necessary to relieve the compression or irritation and pain.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
There are two types of spinal cord injuries: complete injuries and incomplete injuries. Complete injuries occur when there is no movement or feeling below the point of injury on the spinal cord. This happens since the spinal cord cannot transmit messages below the injured area of the spinal cord. Complete spinal cord injuries are the most severe spinal injuries and are unlikely to improve.
Incomplete injuries are when there is still some feeling or movement below the spinal cord injury. The spinal cord can still send signals through certain pathways. This type of injury typically improves somewhat with proper medical treatment, though a full recovery is unlikely.
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries
Symptoms of spinal cord injury include loss of movement and sensation in the arms and legs, weakness in the arms and/or legs, tingling or decreased sensation in the limbs and/or chest, loss of bladder and bowel control, severe pain or pressure in the neck and/or back, unusual lumps along the spine, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms may develop some time after the spinal cord injury actually occurred. These symptoms can indicate an emergency situation which requires immediate medical treatment to prevent permanent spinal cord injury.
Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries
Though there is no cure for spinal cord injuries, medical treatment may provide some improvement for many people suffering from spinal cord injuries. These injuries can sometimes be treated with medicine, such as corticosteroid injections. These injections should be given within 8 hours of the injury and may promote blood flow and preserve nerve function of the injured area. Surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure from the affected area and/or stabilize any broken vertebrae or ruptured disc. Many people with spinal cord injury require long term hospitalization and rehabilitation.
Spinal cord injuries often have dramatic consequences in the injured person’s daily life. Although people with spinal cord injuries can lead fulfilling lives, the injury frequently results in drastic changes and disruption in their lives. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, you should have an attorney experienced in these matters evaluate your case. They may be able to recommend appropriate testing and further treatment. At Hardesty, Tyde, Green & Ashton, P. A. we have handled many spinal cord injury cases and would be happy to discuss your case with you at no charge.
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What constitutes a personal injury?
The most common personal injury is an auto accident, but the broad definition encompasses any situation where a person suffers harm due to the negligence of another person or entity. Early identification of a personal injury is important to the legal process. Many serious injuries occur each year involving:
– Auto accidents
– Premises liability accidents such as injuries caused by a slip and fall
– Medical malpractice/nursing home injuries
– Wrongful death
– Work-related accidents
– Animal attacks
– Faulty or malfunctioning products (product liability)