1. What is the spinal cord?
The spinal cord is part of the nervous system that runs the length of the back, extending from the base of the brain to about the waist.
2. What is a spinal cord injury?
Spinal cord injury is damage to the nerves within the spinal canal. Most are caused by trauma and affect the spinal cord’s ability to send and receive messages from the brain to the body’s systems that control sensory, motor and autonomic function below the level of injury.
3. What is the difference between a complete and incomplete injury?
In a complete injury, nerve damage obstructs every signal coming from the brain to the body parts below the injury, whereas in an incomplete injury, there is some motor and sensory function.
4. How common are spinal cord injuries?
Approximately 450,000 people in the United States have sustained spinal cord injuries, with more cases in emergency centers every day. These injuries are dramatically more common in men than in women.
5. What are the leading causes of traumatic spinal cord injuries?
Motor vehicle accidents.
6. Are there symptoms of this type of injury?
If you are experiencing any of the following, you should contact a physician to evaluate your injury.
- Extreme pain in the neck, head or back
- Tingling or loss of sensation in the hand, fingers, feet, or toes
- Loss of control over any part of the body
- Urinary or bowel urgency, incontinence, or retention
- Difficulty with balance and walking
- Impaired breathing after injury
- Unusual lumps on the head or spine
7. Can I die from this type of injury?
Eighty five percent of SCI patients who survive the first 24 hours following injury are still alive 10 years later.
8. What treatments are available?
Ongoing research is being done. Currently, drug treatments and therapies, surgery, nerve cell transplantation, and nerve regeneration are all being used as treatments.