Depending on the source and severity of impact, spine trauma can lead to serious complications and impairment of motor function and movement. The spine can suffer a bruise or tear (either partial or full) which can affect movement, sensation, and in certain cases, even organ function. If you have suffered from spinal trauma or any other back condition, it’s important to contact an orthopedic spine surgeon as soon as possible. A spine surgeon can help determine the proper treatment options for each unique patient.
Causes of Spinal Injuries
Shock or trauma to the spine can result from any blunt or forceful impact in the region. The most common sources of spinal trauma for most people are:
- Car accidents
- Violent physical impact
What are the Symptoms of Back Injuries?
An injury to the spine will usually result in initial shock at the site of impact, with possible numbing and loss of sensation below the area of impact that, depending on the degree of injury, can vary in duration from days to several weeks. The initial symptoms of spinal shock sometimes resolve on their own, at which point an accurate assessment as to the extent of the damage caused by the injury can be determined.
In more severe cases, trauma can also result in:
- Muscle spasms
- Labored or difficult breathing
- Problems with heart rate and blood pressure
- Loss of bladder and bowel function
The area of the body affected by the spinal injury will depend on the location of the trauma, as symptoms present below the area of impact. For example, trauma to the lumbar (lower back) region can affect movement and sensation in the legs, bladder, and bowel, whereas trauma higher up the spinal column or in the neck can impact everything from the arms to major organs in the thoracic cavity.
Learn more about spinal trauma on MayoClinic.com.
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Diagnosing Spinal Damage
Determining the range and severity of a spinal injury can be a delicate process, as the source and extent of trauma may not be immediately apparent in every case. When a spinal injury is suspected or can reasonably be assumed, as with a car accident or impact from being tackled in a football game, the first priority is to stabilize the spine and limit further movement until the damage can be assessed. Imaging and diagnostic tests like x-rays, CAT scans and MRIs help to paint a clearer picture of the spine’s condition.
Treatment for Back Damage and Injuries
Spine injury treatment will vary from patient to patient and depend on the location and severity of the injury. Any case of spinal trauma should be treated immediately in order to assess the extent of the injury and to help prevent further injury and potential long term complications.
General precautions immediately after spine trauma include:
- Stabilizing the spine by immobilizing the head, neck, and back
- Medication to control inflammation and swelling
- Surgery to assess extent of damage, repair damage, and relieve pressure to the spine
Long term physical therapy and rehabilitation may be necessary to preserve muscle and nerve function depending on the injury. If you have suffered spinal trauma, please contact a spinal surgeon as soon as possible.
Next, learn about spine tumors.