Spinal Cord or Spinal Nerve Roots
The vertebral column, also known as the spinal column or simply spine, is a column of 26 bones in an adult body (24 vertebrae interspaced with cartilage in addition to the sacrum and coccyx). In adolescents, the column consists of 33 bones as the sacrum's five bones and the coccyx's four do not fuse together until after adolescence. The spine is further divided into regions: cervical (the neck), thoracic (upper back), lumbar (lower back), sacral, and coccygeal. In between the vertebrae are thin regions of cartilage known as intervertebral discs, which are made of a fibrous outer shell (annulus fibrosus) and a pulpy center (nucleus pulposus).These cartilaginous intervertebral discs, which act as "shock-absorbers," help distribute weight, and keep vertebrae oriented in the correct spacing.
The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system and beings at the base of the brain, running through the cervical spine, ending at the lower portion of the thoracic spine. Therefore, injuries to the spinal cord may affect the neck and the upper back. The spinal cord stops at the point where the thoracic spine meets the lumbar spine and continues to branch out to form the cauda equnia, which is a network of nerves that extend to the lower extremities of the body. Since the spinal cord does not run through the lumbar spine, it is very rare that an injury to the lower back would result in paralysis or damage to the spinal cord.
Most spinal cord and nerve injuries are a result of motor vehicle accidents, falls, or sports injuries and can occur as jarring by a blunt injury such as a fall or a collision, compression caused by broken bones, infection, hematoma, or disc herniation. A partial or complete injury to the cord other nerves may occur.
People who have a nerve injury typically have the following symptoms:
- Loss of muscle control or weakness
- Temporary or permanent loss of sensation either partially or totally
- Spastic paralysis where the muscles spasms
- Limited or restricted range of motion
It is highly recommended to visit a physician if an individual has these symptoms or suspects an injury to the spinal cord or any of the related nerves. Early diagnosis is extremely important to ensure no further damage occurs
Spinal cord and spinal nerve injuries are diagnosed with a combination of patient history, physical examination, and other tests and imaging studies. After discussing the individual's symptoms, the physician will examine the spine for any visible deformities. Additionally, the physician will order x-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans to assess the location, nature, and severity of the damage to the cord or nerves.
Treatment methods will vary based on the severity of the spinal cord or spinal nerve injury and the individual's condition. Options must be discussed extensively with the physician in order to determine the proper course of action.
Recovery will depend on the chosen treatment method. When discussing treatment options with the physician, it is crucial to discuss the desired level of activity the individual would like to return to and how long it would take to return to said activity. All of these factors must be taken into consideration when choosing a treatment option.
CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY IF YOU ARE HAVING A MEDICAL EMERGENCY!
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