A Spinal cord trauma (damage to the spine) usually occurs when a person gets involved in a major car accident, a severe fall, a sports injury, lifting a heavy object, or other physical exercises.

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Spinal cord trauma is a spinal injury caused by an accident such as a car accident, a severe fall, a sports injury, lifting a heavy object, or other physical exercises. Also, trauma to the spine can cause fractures or subluxations, which are displacements of the vertebrae that put pressure on the nerves. In addition, trauma can occur anywhere in the spine, including the neck (cervical spine), upper spine (thoracic spine), lower spine (lumbar spine), and the connected bone portion at the bottom of the spine called the sacrum.

Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms

The location and intensity of the injury to the spinal cord determine the symptoms of spinal trauma. The primary symptom is a loss of motor function, which varies in severity depending on the conditions.

Symptoms Vary by Circumstance

  • Cervical spine (neck) injuries typically result in significant paralysis, which includes difficulties breathing and the inability to manage body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, or sweating. After a cervical spine injury, patients are frequently unable to live without the aid of lots of help.
  • Paraplegia, or the inability to control the trunk and stomach muscles, appears as the most common outcome of injuries to the thoracic or mid-spinal cord.
  • Bowel and bladder control, as well as sexual dysfunction, can occur by lumbar and sacral lesions in the lower region of the spinal cord.

Questions and Answers

What is spinal cord trauma?

 Spinal cord trauma refers to an injury that occurs to the spinal cord, resulting in damage to the nerve fibers within the spinal canal. It can be caused by various traumatic events, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries, or acts of violence. The severity of spinal cord trauma can range from mild to severe, leading to a wide range of symptoms and functional impairments.

What are the symptoms of Spinal Cord Trauma?

The symptoms of spinal cord trauma can vary depending on the location and severity of the injury. Common symptoms may include loss of sensation, muscle weakness or paralysis, changes in reflexes, loss of bowel and bladder control, difficulty breathing, and changes in sexual function. The specific symptoms experienced by an individual will depend on the level of the spinal cord injury and the extent of the damage.

How is spinal cord trauma diagnosed and Treated?

Spinal cord trauma is typically diagnosed through a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans. Treatment for spinal cord trauma aims to stabilize the spine, prevent further damage, and promote functional recovery. This may involve immobilization with braces or traction, medication to manage pain and inflammation, surgery to stabilize the spine or decompress the spinal cord, and rehabilitation therapies to improve function and quality of life.

Two Types of Common Spinal Cord Traumas


Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

Complete SCI appears as the most serious and occurs when the spinal cord gets injured, preventing the brain’s ability to send signals below the site of injury. For example, damage to the lumbar spine can cause paralysis under the hip joint while maintaining motor function (cross-section) of the upper body and arms. However, if there is complete damage to the cervical spine, this often leads to loss of motor capacity in the lower and upper body.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Incomplete SCI often results from compression or damage to the spinal cord, which reduces the brain’s ability to send signals downstream of the site of injury. Subsequently, incomplete injuries vary widely from person to person because the condition of the spinal cord becomes partially impaired. With this injury, some impairment can occur of some sensory and motor functions, but in some cases, total impairment can occur. In addition, some incomplete injuries result in triple pain or loss of sensation and movement in one arm and both legs.

Incomplete spinal cord injury is becoming more common. This is partly due to the improved research on spinal cord injury, which has increased knowledge about improved treatment and how to respond (and not respond). These injuries currently account for over 60% of spinal cord injuries. Therefore, this means that we are making real progress towards better treatment of SCI rehabilitation.

Types of Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries:

  • Anterior cord syndrome: The motor and sensory pathways in the spinal cord are damaged by this sort of lesion at the front of the spinal cord. You may maintain some feelings yet have difficulty moving.
  • Central cord syndrome: The nerves that transport messages from the brain to the spinal cord are damaged with this lesion to the core of the chord. Fine motor skills loss, arm paralysis, and partial leg disability (typically less severe) are all common symptoms. Some survivors lose their capacity to regulate their bowels and bladders, as well as their sexual function.
  • Brown-Sequard syndrome: Damage to one side of the spinal cord results in this type of injury. The damage may occur as more severe on one side of the body than the other.  For example, movement can occur on the right side, but not on the left. The severity of Brown-Sequard patients’ injuries varies dramatically from one patient to the next.

Knowing the location where the damage occurred and the extent of the damage helps patients understand the prognosis.  We encourage our patients to ask lots of questions regarding their treatment and SCI physical therapy. Doctors categorize spinal cord injuries differently depending on the severity of the injury.

The Most Frequent Spinal Cord Traumas:

  • Tetraplegia: These injuries, which are caused by injury to the cervical spinal cord, are usually the most serious, resulting in varying degrees of limb paralysis. Tetraplegia, sometimes known as quadriplegia, affects your ability to move below the injury site and can cause problems with bladder and bowel control, breathing, and other basic functions. The higher the damage to the cervical spinal cord, the more severe the symptoms will exhibit.
  • Paraplegia: When the bottom part of the body, including the legs, is deprived of feeling and movement, this occurs. Damage to the thoracic spinal cord is what causes these injuries. Injury to the top vertebra, as with cervical spinal cord injuries, is usually more severe.
  • Triplegia: Triplegia is a condition in which one arm and both legs lose feeling and mobility as a result of an incomplete spinal cord injury.

What are the Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Trauma?

A healthcare worker checks to see if spinal cord damage is impacting your breathing or heart rate in an emergency. They’ll then analyze how effectively your nerves are functioning. The service provider examines:

  • Your capacity to move portions of your body is known as motor function.
  • Your sense of touch, or sensory function.

Diagnosing a Spinal Cord Trauma using Imaging

  • With a CT scan, the doctor can see Broken bones, blood clots, or blood vessel damage.
  • An MRI scan examines the spinal cord and soft tissues.
  • X-ray scans reveal broken bones or dislocations (bones knocked out of place).

If co-existing peripheral nerve damage exists, a healthcare professional may utilize an electromyogram (EMG) to examine electrical activity in muscles and nerve cells. However, EMG is rarely required in the case of a spinal cord injury.

Emergency Actions

To reduce the impact of head or neck injuries, the injured should seek immediate medical intervention. As a result, treatment for a spinal cord injury frequently begins at the scene of the event. During transfer to the hospital, emergency professionals often utilize a stiff neck collar and a rigid carrying board to immobilize the spine as gently and promptly as possible.

The First Thing to do when Treating a Spinal Cord Injury

The first thing to do is to immobilize the injured person.  If trauma injured another part of the body, the person may need emergency surgery for a spinal cord injury. In addition, broken bones, blood clots, and damaged tissue can all cause injury to the spinal cord, and surgery can clean up and treat this injury. Also, a corticosteroid injection may heal a spinal cord injury, according to some studies. Furthermore, medical professionals state that patients receive the shot within eight hours after the injury. This therapy might include:

  • Improve blood flow.
  • Preserve nerve function.
  • Reduce inflammation.

Spinal Cord Trauma’s Long-Term Treatment

Enhancing independence and quality of life are long-term aims of spinal cord injury therapy:

  • Lowering the chances of developing chronic (ongoing) health problems
  • In partial nerve injuries, some nerve functions will slowly restore in the first year

A Spinal Cord Injury May Result in the Following Long-Term Complications:

  • Inability to control body temperature or blood pressure.
  • Heart and lung disorders are more likely.
  • Loss of Control of the bladder or bowels.
  • Paralysis of the arms and legs.
  • Persistent discomfort.
  • Joint contracture, spasticity
  • Sexual impotence.

After a Spinal Cord Trauma, Doctors May Recommend These Exercises

You may want to stay in bed, especially in the days following spinal cord trauma. When you’ve had a bad accident with your body, moving around seems like a bad idea. However, just because you’ve been hurt doesn’t negate the benefits of exercising.  Exercise after a spinal cord injury can help an injured person recover faster while also providing a variety of health advantages.


  • Yoga: Moderate stretching helps spinal cord injury sufferers because it supports healthy breathing patterns and can help relieve the agony of spending the day in a wheelchair.
  • Water Aerobics: Water helps support an injured person’s weight and decreases discomfort and joint stress.  This happens even if the injured person loses a large amount of movement or feeling.
  • Weightlifting: You can restore muscular control by lifting weights. It will also help you retain strength in areas that haven’t been damaged by your spinal cord injury.
  • Seated Aerobics: Your wheelchair may still provide excellent cardio exercise. Speak with one of our doctors about seated aerobics programs designed for those who suffer from a spinal cord injury.
  • Rowing: Rowing helps accident survivors with partial spinal cord injuries. This exercise just involves upper-body movement while using the lower body to anchor your motions.
  • Walking: The injured person may still walk if the spinal cord injury is partial or the injury constitutes merely nerve damage. Walking with a steady pace and an upright posture can help an injured person build muscles and core functions.

The Spine is the specialty of our doctors and surgeons at Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute. They understand the pain that spine conditions can generate and doctors Richard Hostin, MDDevesh Ramnath, MDIshaq Syed, MDShyam Kishan, MD, and Kathryn Wiesman, MD, have years and years of training and experience in Spine and Back Pain for kids, adolescents, young adults, and seniors.

The following are just a few of the many reasons why patients with spinal cord trauma might choose the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute.
  • Expertise in the spine: The team of specialists at Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute is recognized as the very best.  They specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal conditions, ensuring the best possible care for their patients.
  • Cutting-edge technology: Our practice uses the latest technology and techniques to diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions.  In addition, we use minimally invasive procedures that reduce pain and promote faster recovery.
  • Comprehensive care: Our practice offers a full range of services, from diagnostic imaging and physical therapy to surgery.  We ensure that patients receive complete, seamless care for their spinal conditions.
  • Dedicated facilities: Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute is dedicated to providing patients with a safe and comfortable environment.

Finally, our board-certified physicians and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons use the full range of treatments to treat their spine patients. Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute’s experts with offices in DallasPlano, and Frisco,  Texas offer cutting-edge technology, comprehensive care, and dedicated facilities to ensure the best possible care for their patients. Get in touch with us today at 214-556-0555 to schedule an appointment.



American Spinal Injury Association: Spinal Cord Injury


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