Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

The damage to the body that results in spinal cord injuries is due to damage of the ligaments, spinal cord disks, vertebrae or to the spinal cord. This damage can be due to a traumatic injury or a non-traumatic reason. The traumatic injury to the spinal cord can come from an impact to the spine that results in vertebrae factures, compression, crushing or dislocation. Violence such as a gunshot wound can penetrate or cut the spinal cord. The non-traumatic events that could caused spinal cord damage include infections, inflammation, disk degeneration, cancer and arthritis.

More damage can occur in a traumatic spinal cord injury in the days or weeks following the event caused by bleeding, inflammation, swelling or fluid accumulation in or around the spinal cord.

Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

  • Car Truck and Motorcycle Accidents: Motor vehicle accidents are the top cause of spinal cord injuries and according to statistics make up 40% of all new spinal cord injuries annually in the United States.
  • Slip and Falls: Fall accidents account for approximately one quarter of all spinal cord injuries annually and are most often seen in individuals over the age of 65.
  • Alcohol: According to statistics approximately one in four spinal cord injuries involve alcohol as a factor.
  • Sports and Recreation Related Injuries: Approximately 8% of spinal cord injuries involve athletic activities or impact sports, including diving into shallow water.
  • Violence: About 15% of spinal cord injuries occur during violent encounters according to the national Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. These are spinal cord injuries that may include gunshot and knife wounds.
  • Disease: Spinal cord injuries may be caused by osteoporosis, inflammation, arthritis and cancer.

Central Nervous System and Brain Relation to Spinal Cord Injury

Central nervous system and the body is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord, which soft tissue surrounded by bone or the vertebrae. The spinal cord begins at the base of the brain and is made up of nerve cells and tracts that are groups of nerves that go to different areas of the body. The lower part of the spinal cord stops above the waist in an area referred to as the conus medullaris and below this area of the body is a group of nerve roots referred to as the cauda equine. These tracts carry messages in the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body. Some being motor tracts carry signals from the brain that control muscle movement and sensory tracts carry signals to the parts of the body that relate to the position of the extremities, pain, pressure, hot and cold.

Nerve Fiber Damage

Damage to the nerve fibers whether it is a traumatic or non-traumatic injury it can result in impairment to the corresponding muscles and nerves below where the injury is located. Injuries that affect the ches thoracic or lower back lumbar region may affect control of the bladder, bowel, sexual function, legs and trunk. Cervical injuries in the neck can affect the patients breathing and their arm movement.

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