According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are 17,900 new cases of spinal cord injuries in America every year. Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries, according to data released by NSCISC. If you’ve been in a car accident and are feeling pain, tingling or numbness as a result, you may have suffered a serious spinal cord injury.
A spinal cord injury is a severe condition that can be caused by a severe and sudden impact on the spine. The spine is comprised of a bundle of nerves that sends signals from the brain to other parts of the body to move muscles and control sensations.
Spinal cord injuries range from mild to life-changing events. There are two types of spinal cord injuries: traumatic and non-traumatic. Traumatic injuries happen suddenly, usually because of accidents or violence. Non-traumatic injuries develop gradually over time due to natural wear and tear on your spine’s discs, joints or muscles.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
The spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves and cells that extends from the lower portion of the brain to the lower back. These nerve fibers are made up of cell bodies that are extensions of the nervous system. They are long, thin cells that come together to bind into bundles. These bundles go on to produce their own nerve fibers and form a peripheral nerve. Together, they carry signals between the brain and the rest of the body.
A spinal cord injury occurs when there is damage caused to the tight bundle of cells and nerves that sends and receives signals from the brain to and from the rest of the body.
Causes of a Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury can be caused by a direct injury to the spinal cord itself or from damage to the tissue and bones (vertebrae) that surround the spinal cord. This damage can result in temporary or permanent changes in sensation, movement, strength, and body functions below the site of injury.
Spinal cord injuries usually happen because of one of three different mechanisms:
This is the most common cause of spinal cord injury. The American Paralysis Foundation states that approximately 265,000 people are living with a spinal cord injury in the United States. Of these, approximately 51,000 are living with injuries that happened before 1988.
On the road
Most spinal cord injuries are caused motor vehicle accidents like a car accident or trucking accident. These can include being hit by another vehicle as a driver or passenger. They can also occur in pedestrian accidents or bicycle accidents. They can also happen when the car collides with another object such as a tree or telephone pole.
Auto-accidents are not the only cause of a spinal cord injury, however. Fall accidents, including slip and fall accidents, are another leading cause, especially for elderly people who need to use walkers or other devices to increase stability.
The American Paralysis Foundation reports that 20% of all new spinal cord injuries happen as a result of violence. Causes include gunshot wounds, beatings, and stabbings.
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury from a car accident are often caused by nerve damage, which interrupts the messages sent from the brain to parts of the body. Some common symptoms related to a spinal cord injury include:
- Weakness in the arms.
- Loss of feeling or altered sensations in parts of the body.
- Muscle spasms that cause painful muscle contractions.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Loss of bowel and bladder control, which can lead to the need for either catheterization or diapers.
- Decreased coordination and balance.
Paralysis can happen if the neck is bent too far in any one direction during impact, straining the soft membranes that cushion the area where brain meets the spinal cord.
The collision might also cause whiplash, which will cause damage to the cervical spine and can lead to injury to nerves in other parts of the body. Damage to structures found in this region, such as vertebrae, discs, or blood vessels can also lead to a spinal cord injury.
Complications can arise depending on how severe the injury is. Symptoms that might develop after an initial injury include:
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Problems regulating blood pressure.
- Cardiovascular diseases, which put patients at risk of heart failure or stroke.
- Spasticity, which is characterized by stiffness caused by over-tightening of the muscles and tendons.
Prevention and Treatment for a Spinal Cord Injury
Immediate treatment at the accident scene includes putting the person on a backboard with a special collar around the neck to prevent further damage to the spinal cord. Treatment at a trauma center may include realigning the spine and surgery to remove any bone fragments or other objects that might press on the spinal column.
When someone has a spinal cord injury, the damaged area of the spinal cord will need to heal completely before any therapy can be used. The therapy will help stretching and increase blood flow to the injured area of the spine.
In some cases, doctors may prescribe medications to help with pain, spasms, bladder control and depression from the spinal cord injury.
A spinal cord injury is a severe condition that can cause paralysis, pain, numbness or loss of control over bladder and bowel function. The symptoms are different for every patient depending on the severity of their injury. If you suspect someone has this type of injury, it’s important to know how to identify these signs to get help right away. Fortunately, there are treatments available for patients with spinal cord injuries which will be tailored based on the individual needs.
Spinal cord injuries take a long time to treat, and they are very expensive. At Garcia Legal we have experience representing victims of car accidents who suffered a spinal cord injury. If your spinal cord injury was caused by someone else’s negligence in a car accident or motor vehicle accident, call us today at (505) 297-1222 to learn more about how we might be able to help you. We offer free, confidential consultations.