Spinal injuries occur as the result of damage to one or parts of the spinal cord. This kind of trauma causes an interruption in the transmission of electrical signals sent from the brain to the nerves, and from the nerves to the brain. When this occurs, impaired or non-existent motor function and control can be the result, requiring assistance from a spine specialist.
The Absence of Pain
Contrary to what you may understand to be true about spinal cord injury, many symptoms aren’t accompanied by physical pain or even discomfort. For example, if you had a bad fall or experienced a cervical spine injury in sports and don’t feel pain, your spine could still be seriously injured.
The Seriousness of Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury is a very serious kind of physical injury. Some spinal cord injuries can impact a patient long-term.
The spinal cord itself is the body’s “highway,” through which all messages from the brain are sent to various parts of the body and vice-versa. A healthy spinal cord allows the body to move its limbs and is what allows us to feel pain and discomfort.
When the spinal cord is injured, it results in an inability of some or all of the messages being relayed to reach their destinations.
Classifications of Spinal Cord Injury
Before reviewing the symptoms, which can occur, it’s important to note the two types of spinal cord injury, which are incomplete and complete.
The incomplete spinal cord injury may include having feeling past the point of injury, but more difficulty with moving these areas. One example could be when a patient feels sensation in the hands, but attempting to move the fingers is more difficult than it was before the injury occurred.
The complete spinal cord injury presents with the complete loss of sensation, as well as the loss of control of body parts located below the injury. This is referred to as paralysis by some patients.
Low and High Level Injuries
An injury to the spine deemed to be low level will typically involve only the trunk, pelvic organs, and legs. High level spinal injuries will involve the pelvic organs, trunk, and legs, but also affect the hands and arms.
Painless Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury
Although patients may have sustained injuries to their spinal cords and are feeling pain as a result, there are other symptoms of injury which may not be accompanied by pain.
Absence of Sensation
A very common symptom of spinal cord injury is the loss of sensation in particular areas of the body. The point where sensation loss begins is usually indicative of where in the spine the injury is located. For example, patients who cannot feel their legs are likely to have incurred injury to their lower spines.
A loss of bladder or bowel control is another one of many cervical spine injury signs and symptoms. This particular symptom occurs as the result of the inability of nerve muscles to control bladder and bowel muscles due to a blockage of signals from the brain.
Pins and Needles or Weakness
Any tingling or numbness in the extremities is another painless symptom of spinal cord injury that shouldn’t be overlooked. As well, any feeling of weakness in the legs, arms, and other extremities can indicate nerve damage or impulse blockage.
Unusual Muscle Activity
Nerves which cannot communicate correctly due to spinal injury can result in the inability of patients to control their muscles. Spams may occur, or the reflexes may be exaggerated. If neither of these painless conditions was present before, injury to the spine may be very likely.
A feeling of extreme pressure is another symptom of spinal injury. Extreme pressure can indicate nerve damage as well as vertebral compression. Regardless of the type of injury, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible if a patient is experiencing this symptom.
Balance and Movement
If a patient experiences problems with unassisted walking, lightheadedness, and general problems with balance following an accident, a spinal injury could be the cause. Where these symptoms are present, it is imperative that the patient seek medical treatment.
Spinal injury can also lead to a decline in sexual health. For men, changes in the ability to have an erection as well as changes in ejaculation can be painless symptoms of spinal injury. In women, changes in arousal and lubrication may also indicate nerve blockage or damage.
Achieving the Best Possible Chance of Recovery
In order to have the highest chance for the recovery of function following injury to the spinal cord, a patient must receive treatment from a Frisco spinal rehab center as quickly as possible following the incident which caused the injury.
Why Is Timely Treatment So Important?
Following injury, the blood flow in and around the spinal cord is dramatically reduced. This dramatic reduction in blood flow, if left untreated, will increase in severity, Not only that, but this reduced blood flow will also mean that other uninjured areas of the body will receive less blood, which can cause irreparable damage.
The body will continue to regulate blood pressure and heart rate following a spinal injury, but only for the first hour and thirty minutes. If reduced blood flow continues after this amount of time has passed, a drop in heart rate and blood pressure will occur.
Another reason to receive treatment as soon as possible following an accident is to mitigate the risk of nerve cell death. Following injury, an excessive amount of neurotransmitters are released into the body to compensate for the blockage of messages. Unfortunately, this release of neurotransmitters causes nerve cells to become overexcited and die.
The Benefits of Timely Treatment
When the right treatment is received, the spine can be stabilized early on, which will improve the chances of recovery. The first six months following a spinal injury will be when the majority of recovery occurs. During this time, a patient will undergo the most aggressive rehabilitation and physical therapy.
In addition to the physical treatment patients will undergo via spine specialists in Grapevine, their mental and emotional states will be absolutely essential to their recovery. Understandably, victims of spinal injury will often experience depression, which can lead to substance abuse and relationship issues. Fortunately, many resources are available at spinal injury clinics to ensure that patients are healthy in all ways and are dealing positively with their injuries and recovery.
What Does Spinal Treatment Involve?
The locations and severity of a spinal injury can differ greatly from patient to patient. However, generally speaking, a patient having sustained possible spinal injury must undergo imaging of the spine in order to obtain more information about the injury.
Once this is complete, it is likely that the spine will be stabilized, either by axial traction or rigid bracing. In the days that follow, a complete neurological examination is likely to be completed, as this procedure will allow injury severity and extent of recovery to be diagnosed.
Depending on the type of injury, surgery may be recommended. Several possible surgical procedures may be suggested, each having their own degree of possible recovery and risk to the patient.
Physical rehabilitation will be an important part of recovery for spinal cord injury victims. Although techniques and treatment lengths will vary from patient to patient, physical and occupational therapists will administer treatment.
Examples of physical therapy offered by spine teams in Texas are muscle-strengthening exercises, occupational therapy to help patients recover their fine motor skills, and bladder and bowel management programs. As well, vocational therapy may be recommended for patients who wish to resume work following their recovery from spinal injury.
In vocational therapy, patients’ basic work skills are assessed along with their dexterity and capabilities on a cognitive and physical basis. A specialist will then help a patient to determine potential places of employment, as well as any assistive devices which may be required.
How to Get Help for Spinal Injuries
If you or a loved one has recently suffered a spinal injury and home treatments for symptoms have not been effective, it’s imperative to find a specialist as soon as possible. The specialists at 360 Back and Spine Center are dedicated to providing comprehensive treatment.
Our conservative approach provides patients with the information they need to make informed decisions at every step of the treatment process. For more about the benefits of a partnership with us, call (682) 223-1406.