Spinal cord trauma is damage to the spinal cord. It may result from direct injury to the cord itself or indirectly from disease of the nearby bones, tissues, or blood vessels.
Spinal cord injury; Compression of spinal cord; SCI; Cord compression
The spinal cord contains the nerves. These nerves carry messages between your brain and body. The cord passes through your neck and back down to the first lumbar vertebra.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) can be caused by any of the following:
- Gunshot wounds
- Industrial accidents
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Sports injuries
A minor injury can damage the spinal cord. Conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis can weaken the spinal cord. Injury can also occur if the spinal canal protecting the spinal cord has become too narrow (spinal stenosis). This occurs during normal aging.
Direct injury or damage to the spinal cord can occur due to:
- Bruises if the bones or disks have been weakened
- Fragments of bone (such as from broken vertebrae, which are the spine bones) in the spinal cord
- Fragments of metal (such as from a traffic accident or gunshot)
- Sideway pulling or pressing or compression from twisting of the head, neck or back during an accident or intense chiropractic manipulation
Bleeding, fluid buildup, and swelling can occur inside or outside the spinal cord (but within the spinal canal). This can press on the spinal cord and damage it.
Most high impact SCIs, such as from motor vehicle accidents or sports injuries, are seen in young, healthy people. Men ages 15 to 35 are most often affected.
Risk factors include:
- Participating in risky physical activities
- Riding in or on high-speed vehicles
- Diving into shallow water
Low impact SCI often occurs in older adults from falls while standing or sitting. Injury is due to a weakened spine from aging or bone loss (osteoporosis).