Our spinal cord is the nerve centre of our body. It contains a bundle of nerves that runs down the back, transmitting signals to and fro the body and the brain. When a patient suffers from a spinal cord injury, this nerve centre is damaged and the signals will be disrupted. This could potentially create serious consequences and simple actions such as walking could not be done. Spinal cord injuries are usually due to direct trauma causing the vertebrae to dislocate. Most injuries however do not cut through the spinal cord. Instead, the bone fragments will impinge onto the nerves and result in the loss of bodily functions.
Spinal cord injuries can be partial or full. In a partial injury, movement below the injury will still be permitted. In a full injury however, the spinal cord is unable to communicate with nerves below that, thus causing in permanent loss of motion. Spinal cord injuries are medical emergencies and must be attended to immediately.
Doctors are able to assess a spinal cord injury simply by testing for motor and sensory ability. If a patient is able to answer properly, it is not that serious. If symptoms are present, it may indicate a much more severe injury. X-rays are able to detect fractures and any problems with the vertebrae. CT scans are able to probe further into issues that were detected by x-rays. An MRI scan will scan and detect blood clots and herniated disks while myelography will identify damages to spinal nerves.
There are many different ways a spinal cord injury can be prevented. When travelling in a motor vehicle, passengers should always use seat belts to secure themselves to the seat. This is to prevent trauma during a car accident. In senior citizens, the most common cause of spinal injuries are due to falls. In order to minimize this, anti-slip floor mats should be placed in wet areas such as the toilets and handle bars should be placed throughout the home for support.
Athletes are also at a higher risk and they should protect themselves by wearing the appropriate safety gears during training and games. During rugby, protective head helmets should be worn. Gymnasts should always use spotters during their training as well.
Spinal cord injuries can be life threatening and most people will need assistive devices such as wheelchairs to deal with the loss of mobility. In serious cases, patients might even be bedridden for the rest of their life.