While it is common to sustain a back injury from a car accident, many common spinal injuries are able to be treated with non-invasive methods and can be fully healed over time. Spinal cord injuries are a very serious form of back injury that needs medical attention quickly. Even a few minutes delay can lead to paralysis and decreased quality of life. But, like many other conditions, back injuries from a car accident may not be apparent immediately. This is why it’s important to be evaluated as soon as possible after an accident to rule out these injuries.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that is responsible for carrying nerve impulses between the brain and the rest of the body. Beginning at the base of the brain stem, the spinal cord continues to almost the end of the spine. Along with the brain, it is the major component of the central nervous system that controls many bodily functions.
There are two types of injuries to the spinal cord- complete and incomplete. When a complete injury occurs, the nerves are not quite totally severed but are damaged in such a way that movement and sensation will be lost, resulting in paralysis. An incomplete injury causes more minor damage that does not remove all function but can have varying levels of sensation remaining.
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
Many times car accident injury symptoms can be delayed but that does not mean they are not serious. Ignoring these symptoms as they begin to develop can allow the injury to turn into more severe conditions over time. While you should seek care for any symptoms you experience, some things are particularly associated with paralysis and spinal cord injuries.
In addition to general pain, an intense stinging, sharp pain, or dull aches are all indications of spinal cord injuries. You may notice an increase in reflexes or spasms, while some people will experience a loss of movement and sensation, including temperature and touch. Issues controlling the bladder or bowels, trouble breathing, and poor coordination and balance are also warning signs to keep an eye on.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek care quickly to prevent injuries from worsening or paralysis from developing.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
For people under the age of 65, the most common cause of spinal cord injuries is motor vehicle accidents. A sudden blow to the spinal cord and surrounding tissues can cause trauma that leads to this damage. Common back injuries after car accidents, like herniated discs or fractured vertebrae, can create conditions that pinch or pressure your spinal cord and lead to more serious issues.
Senior citizens, those over the age of 65, are more likely than other groups to experience a spinal cord injury as a result of a fall. It’s very common for this to happen while at home, though any slip and fall can result in these injuries. These falls can bruise the spinal cord or do more permanent damage, especially in those with existing back problems due to age.
In addition to accidents and falls, a number of other things can cause spinal cord injuries. Many are sports-related, in both professional and amateur athletes, especially in males. Medical and surgical complications and gunshots are also commonly cited as the cause of these injuries.
Treating Spinal Cord Injuries
Based on the type and severity of your spinal cord injury, treatments can vary in form, length, and goals. For those who suffer a complete injury and are paralyzed, treatment will likely not reverse the damage, but focus on improving quality of life and function.
When this is not the case, patients can be treated using chiropractic and orthopedic care, and often may undergo surgery to repair the spinal cord. Early care will aim to reduce swelling to assess remaining function. For many people, full recovery can take over a year.
If you have recently suffered a back injury from a car accident, it is important to seek expert medical care quickly. If there is a risk of a spinal cord injury, this is even more critical. At AICA Orthopedics, our specialists will be able to assess your injury and quickly develop a customized treatment plan based on our knowledge of car accident injuries. Don’t hesitate to call AICA Orthopedics today for a consultation.