Latest In


Spinal Injury - Guide To Rehabilitation And Recovery

A spinal injury refers to any damage or trauma inflicted upon the spinal cord, which is a crucial part of the central nervous system responsible for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

Dr. Bill Butcher
Aug 12, 20236 Shares6472 Views
A spinal injuryrefers to any damage or traumainflicted upon the spinal cord, which is a crucial part of the central nervous system responsible for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
Spinal injuries can have severe and lasting effects on a person's mobility, sensation, and overall quality of life.
Understanding the causes, types, symptoms, and treatments associated with spinal injuries is essential for both medical professionals and the general public alike.
This article delves into the various aspects of spinal injuries to provide a comprehensive overview of this complex and impactful medical condition.

What Is Spinal Injury?

A spinal injuryoccurs when the spinal cord is damaged. It is a severe kind of physical trauma that is likely to have a long-term and considerable influence on most elements of everyday life.
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves and other tissue that is contained and protected by the vertebrae of the spine. The vertebrae are the bones that make up the spine and are piled on top of each other.
The spine includes several nerves and runs from the base of the brain down the back, finishing near the buttocks.
The spinal cord is in charge of relaying information from the brain to the rest of the body. It also communicates from the body to the brain. Messages delivered via the spinal cord allow us to feel pain and move our limbs.
If the spinal cord is injured, some or all of these impulses may not "get through." As a consequence, below the damage, there is a full or whole loss of feeling and motion.
A spinal injurycloser to the neck will usually result in paralysis affecting a wider portion of the body than one in the lower back.

Common Causes Of Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries can have life-altering consequences, impacting a person's mobility, sensation, and overall quality of life.
These injuries can result from a range of accidents, incidents, and medical conditions. Understanding the common causes of spinal injuries is crucial for prevention, safety, and prompt medical intervention.

Traumatic Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents: Collisions involving cars, motorcycles, bicycles, or pedestrians can exert immense force on the spine, leading to injuries.
  • Falls from heights or on slippery surfaces can result in spinal fractures or dislocations.
  • High-impact sports like football, rugby, or gymnastics can expose athletes to spinal injuries.
  • Incorrect diving techniques and shallow water can cause severe spinal trauma.
  • Workers in construction, manufacturing, and other heavy industries may be at risk due to falls, equipment malfunctions, or being struck by objects.
  • Prolonged, repetitive motions or poor ergonomics can lead to spinal injuries over time.

Acts Of Violence

  • Bullets can damage the spine and surrounding tissues, causing serious injuries.
  • Penetrating injuries to the back can harm the spinal cord.

Medical Conditions

  • Infections affecting the spine can cause inflammation and damage to the spinal cord.
  • Growth of tumors within or near the spinal cord can lead to compression and injury.
  • Gradual wear and tear on spinal discs can result in herniated discs and nerve compression.

Medical Procedures

Surgical errors or complications can occasionally result in spinal cord injuries.

Non-Traumatic Causes

  • Certain conditions like multiple sclerosis, ALS, and transverse myelitis can damage the spinal cord.
  • Blood vessel disorders can interrupt blood flow to the spine, causing injury.

Spinal Injury Classification

Spinal injuries can be classified based on function (how much feeling and movement you have) or on where the damage occurred. When a nerve in the spinal cord is injured, the nerve location and number are often used to describe how much damage there is.
For example, a C7 injury is associated with the seventh cervical nerve of the neck and its effect on feeling and movement. C7 is known as the functional level of injury. People who have spinal injuries often use these classifications to describe themselves.
Spinal injuries are also described as complete and incomplete. An incomplete injury is further classified into four subsections. The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) classifies these injuries as follows:

A (complete)

There is no feeling or movement of the areas of your body that are controlled by your lowest sacral nerves. This means that you don't have feeling around the anus.
You can't control the muscle that closes the anus. People with complete spinal cord injuries don't have control of bowel and bladder function.

B (incomplete)

There is feeling but no movement below the level of injury, including sacral segments that control bowel and bladder function.

C (incomplete)

There is feeling and movement below the level of injury. More than half of key muscles can move, but not against gravity. Moving against gravity means moving up. An example is raising your hand to your mouth when you are sitting up.

D (incomplete)

There is feeling and movement below the level of injury. More than half of key muscles can move against gravity.
Feeling and movement are normal.

Classifying Spinal Cord Injuries using ASIA Scoring [Explanation + Example 1]

Spinal Injury Pain Treatment

It is essential to keep in mind that there are numerous potential causes of spinal injury discomfort. Certain varieties of pain can be sudden or severe. Other conditions can be chronic.
In either instance, the spinal injury specialists at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute customize a pain management strategy for each individual.
If you have any pain issues, it is imperative that your spinal injury specialist evaluate you. In some instances, they may refer you to a pain management specialist for optimal spinal injury pain management.

Non-invasive Treatments

Numerous non-invasive remedies are effective, including:
  • Physical rehabilitation - Strengthening weak areas can aid in muscle support and pain reduction. Stretching and other range-of-motion exercises, as well as massage, can also provide relief.
  • Changing an activity or its equipment - Learning new transfer techniques or pressure-relieving methods can alleviate muscle and joint discomfort. You may also require modifications to your mobility apparatus, such as wheelchairs and gliding boards.
  • TENS device - TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a compact, transportable device. It transmits electrical impulses to the sensory portion of the spinal cord and then to the brain. In essence, it fools the brain into not recognizing the discomfort.
  • Acupuncture - Acupuncture, which employs microscopic needles to affect the body's pain control, is effective for some spinal injury patients.
  • Self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques - Learning these techniques may reduce spinal injury-related pain and muscle tension.
  • Psychotherapy - Trained therapists can assist spinal injury patients in overcoming anxiety and altering their perspective on pain.
Surgical treatments also alleviate pain, frequently via implanted devices.


Discuss with your doctor for the appropriate medication for you. The effectiveness varies based on your pain level and how your body reacts to various medications.
Common medications for discomfort include:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs)- In general, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are safe. However, prolonged use can affect the kidneys and liver.
  • Anticonvulsant medicines- Drugs such as gabapentin can alleviate nerve agony caused by a spinal injury.
  • Muscle relaxants- The analgesics diazepam, baclofen, and tizanidine alleviate muscle and spasm discomfort. You can consume them orally or have an implanted injector deliver them directly to the spinal cord.
  • Antidepressant medication- SSNRIs can treat depression and nerve discomfort.
  • Narcotics- Pain-relieving medications such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone are typically not the first-line treatment. They may cause adverse effects and can be addictive. It is vital that you discuss these medications with your doctor.

Signs Of Recovery From Spinal Injury

Whilst each accident victims' circumstances may vary, and varied indications of recovery will be evident to wounded victims at various phases of the process, the following are some of the typical indicators of recovery after a sci:

Decreased Swelling

One of the first symptoms of healing following a spinal cord injuryis a decrease in edema. Inflammation is a common response to spinal injuries, and although it may be unpleasant, it is a sign that the body is making progress toward recovery.

Pain Surrounding The Injury Site

Pain is a common response to trauma, but in the case of a spinal cord injury, it may indicate progress toward full recovery. In order to experience pain, sensory impulses must go from the injured area to the brain, as explained by one medical center.
This suggests that the spinal cord injury is partial rather than total, and incomplete scis have a better prognosis than full ones. Some accident victims will feel better once some time has passed. Chronic pain patients may choose from a number of effective treatments.

Tingling (or “pins And Needles”) Sensations

Recovery from a spinal cord injury may also be indicated by the absence of a tingling (or "pins and needles") feeling. Having changed feeling may be a sign that sensory function may be restored, particularly after therapy has been completed.
Therefore, although this feeling might be unsettling or unpleasant when seen in isolation, it is generally a sign of success when examined in the context of the whole sci healing process.

Regaining Sensory Input Below The Injury Site

Healing from a spinal cord injury is indicated by the return of feeling below the location of the damage, as well as the return of tingling sensations above it.
Due to the fact that some victims of spinal cord injuries have chronic numbness in their limbs, the moment they feel sensation return to their feet and legs marks a significant turning point in their rehabilitation.

Recovering Function Of Muscles Below The Site Of Damage

Regaining function of the muscles below the injury site is also indicative of healing. Spinal cord injuries have a high risk of permanent paralysis, although paralysis may also be episodic.
Rehabilitative treatment may begin after you restore muscular control, and this will start you on the path to leading a regular life, or one as near to normal as possible, again.

Recovering From Surgery

Many people who suffer spinal cord injuries as a result of accidents need surgery to repair the damage. If the healing process after surgery is successful, then bodes favorably for a full recovery from the sci.
Patients may begin rehabilitation as soon as they have recovered following a successful operation, and this is crucial since it can reduce the likelihood of permanent damage.

People Also Ask

Can Spinal Injuries Be Fully Cured?

The extent of recovery from a spinal injury depends on factors like the severity of the injury, the location on the spine, and the individual's overall health. While some people may regain partial function, complete recovery from severe spinal injuries is rare.

How Are Spinal Injuries Diagnosed?

Spinal injuries are diagnosed through medical imaging techniques such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans. These tests help doctors assess the extent of the injury, the affected spinal levels, and plan appropriate treatment.

What Treatment Options Are Available For Spinal Injuries?

Treatment for spinal injuries may involve surgery, physical therapy, medications, and assistive devices. The goal is to stabilize the spine, manage pain, and help the individual regain as much function as possible.

Are There Any Preventive Measures For Spinal Injuries?

Preventive measures for spinal injuries include using proper safety equipment during physical activities, practicing safe driving habits, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of falls and accidents that could lead to spinal injuries.

Final Thoughts

Spinal injuries are serious and often life-altering medical conditions that can result from various causes, including accidents, falls, sports injuries, and medical conditions.
The impact of a spinal injury can be profound, affecting a person's mobility, sensation, and overall well-being.
Treatment and rehabilitation for spinal injuries can be complex and require a multidisciplinary approach, involving medical professionals, physical therapists, and other specialists.
Advances in medical technology and research continue to offer hope for improved outcomes and quality of life for individuals with spinal injuries.
It's crucial to prioritize prevention, early intervention, and ongoing support to mitigate the risks and challenges associated with spinal injuries and provide the best possible care for those affected.
Jump to
Latest Articles
Popular Articles