Traumatic Injuries of the Spine

Traumatic injuries of the spine refer to damage or harm caused to the spinal column and its components due to external forces or impact. These injuries can have significant implications for your mobility, sensation, and overall neurological function. 

Depending on what type of nerve fiber damage you sustain due to an injury, an acute spinal cord injury can result in chronic back pain or even paralysis. Inflammation triggered at the time of spinal trauma can continue to cause further damage, even weeks after the initial injury. Therefore, all spine injuries should receive immediate medical attention and minimize or prevent further damage. 

At Haynes Neurosurgical Group, our neurosurgeons provide expert spine care and highly advanced treatments for patients suffering from spinal cord injuries.

Functions of the Spine

The spine, also known as the vertebral column or backbone, plays a crucial role in the human body, providing support, structure, and protection for the spinal cord. 

Critical functions of the spine include:

  • Stability and Support: The spine serves as the primary structural framework for the body, enabling an upright posture.
  • Protection of the Spinal Cord: The spine encases and protects the spinal cord, a vital component of the central nervous system that enables communication between the brain and the rest of the body and controls various functions and movements.
  • Flexibility and Movement: The spine is designed with flexible joints between vertebrae to enable movements such as bending forward, backward, sideways, and rotation.
  • Shock Absorption: The intervertebral discs, located between each pair of vertebrae, absorb pressure and impact during activities such as walking, running, and jumping, reducing stress on the spine and preventing damage to the vertebrae.
  • Facilitates Nerve Function: Nerves branching off the spinal cord exit through openings between vertebrae. These spinal nerves communicate with different parts of the body, enabling sensations, muscle contractions, and other neurological functions.
  • Supports the Respiratory System: The spinal column houses and protects the thoracic cavity, which contains the lungs.

As evident, the spine forms the body’s literal lifeline. Maintaining spinal health is, therefore, crucial for overall well-being. Trauma to the spine and spinal cord can have far-reaching effects on the functioning of your body, and addressing spinal injuries requires careful medical attention and intervention.

Types of Spinal Injuries

Spine injuries vary in severity, and their impact depends on aspects such as the location and extent of the injury. Common traumatic injuries of the spine include the following.

Spinal Fractures

Fractures involve a break or crack in one or more vertebrae. This can be caused by falls, motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, or other high-impact traumas.

Fractures can result in spinal instability, compression of nerves, and potential damage to the spinal cord.

Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs)

SCIs include conditions that involve injuries to the spinal cord, the bundle of nerves running down the spine. They are typically a result of trauma such as falls, car accidents, or sports injuries, leading to damage or compression of the spinal cord.

SCIs can cause partial or complete loss of sensation and motor function below the injury site, impacting mobility and daily activities.

Spinal Dislocations

A dislocation occurs when vertebrae are forced out of their normal alignment. This can be caused due to severe trauma, such as high-impact accidents or falls.

Dislocations may result in spinal instability, nerve compression, and potential damage to the spinal cord.

Herniated Discs

A herniated disc occurs when the intervertebral discs rupture or bulge, putting pressure on nearby nerves. This may result from trauma caused by lifting injuries or degenerative changes over time.

Herniated discs can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected area, impacting nerve function.

Spinal Ligament Injuries

Injuries to the ligaments supporting the spine are usually caused by sudden force or hyperextension of the spine.

Ligament injuries can contribute to spinal instability and may lead to other structural problems.

Facet Joint Injuries

Facet joint injuries damage the joints connecting vertebrae. They may be caused by trauma, degeneration, or excessive movement.

Facet joint injuries may lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced spinal flexibility.

Degree of Spine Injury

The degree of impairment or damage to the spinal cord following an injury is classified as complete and incomplete. These terms are used to describe the extent of sensory and motor function loss (paralysis) below the level of the injury. 

Complete Spinal Cord Injury

Complete spinal cord injury is when there is a total loss of sensory and motor function below the level of the injury. This means no sensation or voluntary movement exists in the affected areas. 

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

In an incomplete spinal cord injury, some degree of sensory and/or motor function is still active below the level of the injury. Patients with incomplete injuries may retain partial sensation, movement, or both, indicating that there is still some connection between the nerve pathways, allowing for varying degrees of function.

Symptoms and Impact of Spinal Cord Injury

The severity and specific impairments can vary widely with spinal cord injuries. Given that the spinal column is central to the healthy functioning of your body, injuries to any part of the spine can have a considerable impact on your quality of life. 

Spinal cord injuries can result in diverse symptoms, and their severity and manifestations depend on the location and extent of the injury. Common signs associated with spinal cord injuries include:

  • Partial or total loss of muscle control, leading to paralysis or weakness in the affected limbs or body parts
  • Partial or total loss of sensation, including the ability to feel touch, pressure, temperature, or pain below the level of the injury
  • Altered reflexes, such as exaggerated reflex responses or the absence of reflexes, depending on the nature of the injury
  • Impaired control over bladder and bowel function, which may result in incontinence or urine hesitancy
  • Impact on respiratory muscles, leading to difficulty breathing and, in severe cases, the need for mechanical ventilation
  • Impaired or lack of coordination and balance, affecting mobility and increasing the risk of falls

It's important to note that spinal cord injuries can vary widely, and you may experience a combination of these symptoms to different degrees.

Treating Spine Injuries

Timely diagnosis and medical intervention are crucial for managing spinal injuries and optimizing outcomes. At Haynes Neurosurgical Group, we offer a variety of minimally invasive treatments as well as surgical interventions for managing spine injuries.

Minimally invasive techniques involve smaller incisions, reduced tissue disruption, and quicker recovery than traditional open surgeries. 

Advanced spinal surgeries performed by our renowned neurosurgeons include:

  • Spinal Injections: These injections, guided by imaging techniques, inject medication directly to the impacted area, reducing inflammation and providing pain relief. Common types include epidural injections, facet joint injections, and nerve root blocks.
  • Nerve Blocks: These are anesthetic or anti-inflammatory injections that relieve chronic pain conditions without needing more extensive surgery.
  • Minimally Invasive Decompression: These procedures can help remove or adjust a small portion of the intervertebral disc to alleviate pressure on nerves.
  • Laminectomy: A laminectomy is when a portion of the vertebral bone (lamina) is removed to create more space for compressed nerves. 
  • Discectomy: For conditions such as herniated discs, a discectomy may be recommended. This involves the removal of part or all of a damaged intervertebral disc. 
  • Artificial Disc Replacement: In cases where disc degeneration is a concern, artificial disc replacement may be considered. This innovative procedure involves replacing a damaged disc with an artificial implant, preserving spinal motion and function.

Top Quality Care for Spinal Trauma in Alabama

At Haynes Neurosurgical Group, we combine unmatched precision in neurosurgical techniques with personalized care, tailoring each intervention to your unique needs. 

Our brain and spine care experts are focused on your full recovery as they guide you toward a future of restored health.

To schedule a consultation with one of our experts, please call us at (205) 787-8676 or request an appointment online. 

Phone: (205) 787-8676
Fax: (205) 785-7944

801 Princeton Avenue, S.W.
P.O.B. I, Suite 310
Birmingham, AL 35211

24-Hour Call Service

2024 All Rights Reserved

Website Design & SEO by Numana Digital

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram