The spinal cord injury is considered dangerous due to the vital function of the area. The injury happens when there is injury to the spinal cord due to trauma, compression due to a tumor or infection and loss of normal supply of blood. These injuries can be complete or incomplete.
In a complete injury, it involves total loss of function of the muscles and sensation in the body beneath the level of the injury. As for an incomplete injury, there is still remaining function below the level of the injury. Both sides of the body are usually affected equally.
Injury to the upper area of spinal cord such as in the neck can result to quadriplegia where both arms and legs becomes paralyzed. As for injury in the lower back, it can result to paraplegia which is paralysis of both legs only.
Symptoms of spinal cord injury
- Paralysis and loss of sensation
- Shallow or irregular breathing
- Loss of urinary or bowel control
- Pain or severe stinging sensations
- Exaggerated reflex actions or spasms
- Stabbing or gunshot wounds to the spine
- Falling from heights
- Injuries in sports such as in football, diving, equestrian and rugby
- People suffering from spinal stenosis have a high risk of injury to the spinal cord
- Avoid moving the affected person. Keep the head, neck and back in proper alignment. Lay him/her on a flat surface and keep the person calm and still. Roll up towels and place them on side of the neck or hold the head and neck in place
- If the person does not have a pulse, gently lift the jaw forward and perform chest compression.
- A spinal injury in the upper neck area can result to loss of control in normal breathing and there is a need to use a breathing tube and ventilator. A breathing machine or mechanical ventilator helps with breathing and provides oxygen.
- Wear a cervical collar or place the affected neck on a backboard to prevent unnecessary movements that can worsen the condition.
- Take the prescribed dosage of steroid to lessen the swelling and inflammation.
- Place the affected person in a traction or halo device placed around the head for stability of the spine and prevent further damage that can worsen the condition.
- Some possible complications that can result from a spinal cord injury that needs to be treated immediately includes bowel incontinence or inability in controlling bowel movements, urinary tract infections or urinary incontinence, blood clots, pneumonia, chronic pain, pressure sores, depression and muscle spasms.
- After the affected person is already stabilized, seek the help of a physical therapist for some rehabilitation exercises to restore normal mobility of the affected area through occupational and physical therapy and using assistive devices.
Disclaimer / More Information
The material posted on this page on a spinal cord injury is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage head and back injuries by taking a first aid and CPR class with one of our training providers.