Occurring in numbers too frightening to consider for some, spinal cord injuries take a significant toll each year on families, individuals, and medical expenditures. The life changing effects of a spinal cord injury can range from temporary impairment to full and complete paralysis to death.
In the United States alone, there are somewhere between 10 and 12 thousand spinal cord injury occurrences each year. These significant numbers contribute to the ever growing numbers of 250,000 people plus who are living with a spinal cord injury of some type.
A Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Primer Crash Course
Depending on where a spine is injured will dictate the type of impairment, severity of impairment, and likely the degree of recovery which is possible (but not always). The spine is divided into C-spine, T-spine, L-spine, and S-Spine for cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral.
- The cervical spine (top) are C1 – C7 and the nerves in this area control vital bodily function signals for the diaphragm (breathing), hands, arms, head, neck, and shoulders.
- The thoracic spine (middle) are T1 – T12 and the nerves control the musculature in the chest, back, and part of the abdomen.
- The lumbar spine (lower) are L1 – L5 with nerve signals transmitting to the lower abdomen, buttocks, back, and part of the legs. Although all of the lumbar areas can suffer from injury, the actual spinal cord terminates between L1 and L2.
- The sacral spine (hip region) are S1 – S5 and has nerves sending signals to the external genitalia, thighs, lower legs, and feet.
- Coccygeal (tailbone) vertebrae – four bones form the coccyx and innervation occurs from the skin of the lower back area
Spinal Column Facts
- Formed by 33 bones or vertebrae
- Forms the spine down middle of back
- Central nervous system is made of spinal cord and brain
- Critical components of physical movement and activity
Spinal Injury Facts
- Almost 39% caused by car accidents
- 16 – 30 years old age group – 55% of victims
- Medical costs average $4 billion
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
- Broken back – fracture or dislocation of vertebrae
- Compression injury (vertebrae forced together)
- Crush injury (one or more vertebrae is crushed)
- Spinal cord cut all the way through (severing)
- Other external injuries
This terrible assortment of injuries occurs primarily from three areas but there are a few others also.
- Vehicle accidents – 37%
- Acts of violence – 28%
- Falls – 21%
- Other category – 8%
- Sports injury – 6%