Spinal injury does not necessarily entail injury to the spinal cord. It can describe any injury to the spine, such as a whiplash that can result in spinal injury that is temporary. When the spinal cord is involved, the resulting injuries are more serious and, in some cases, the damage is beyond repair.
There are many ways spinal injury can occur. It can be developmental, from disease or from a tumor. Very often, the injury is due to trauma such as a work-related accident or an automobile collision. Trauma can result in injury to the vertebrae without affecting the cord. This is why it is so important not to move someone who has had injury to their neck or back from an accident. By moving them incorrectly, you may actually cause the spinal cord injury to occur.
Nerve signals pass through the spinal cord to and from the brain. Therefore, the results of spinal cord injury will depend on where the injury occurs. They can be categorized as either complete injuries or incomplete injuries.
If the injury is termed complete, it signifies that motor and sensory function has been lost below a specific level of the spine. People with injuries in this category rarely recover the ability to walk.
In incomplete injuries, some sensory and/or motor function is retained below the level of injury. Most people who retain some function will recover some ability to move themselves. This may or may not include the ability to walk unassisted.
Locomotion is, of course, only part of the function affected by spinal cord injury. Nerves come off the spinal column and travel to the various organs of the body so that they can perform their functions. Spinal injury will therefore affect those functions below the level of injury.
For example, cervical level injuries can effect breathing, so much so that the person sometimes needs respiratory aids. Other level injuries may affect organs such as the kidneys, the gall bladder, bowels and bladder. Incontinence and infection are common after injuries to the spine, as is penile dysfunction.
Other results of this type of injury include pain, spasticity of reflexes and atrophy of muscle. As already discussed, one of the primary effects is on locomotion and other motor function. Spinal injuries may result in paraplegia or quadriplegia.
Inflammation will be present when trauma first occurs. Once inflammation is under control, a more accurate prognosis can be made. Victims of incomplete injuries may recover partial mobility, but it is rare for complete mobility to be achieved.
Especially with the potential severity of spinal injury effects on the body, it is vital to be thoroughly examined following any type of accident that affects the neck and/or back. You need to be sure that there are no more serious injuries than are immediately apparent. For example, injuries to the vertebrae can cause injury to the cord if not treated.