A spinal cord injury is an injury that damages the nerves anywhere along the spine. A spinal cord injury is a medical emergency regardless of the location. It can be fatal — call 911 if you or someone with you receives a spinal cord injury.
Expert neurological treatment is available at Dignity Health, including care for spinal cord injuries in Arizona. Learn more about our comprehensive neurology services at each state-of-the-art location:
Our Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s location has been named a top neurological hospital by US News and World Report. Find a Doctor online and make an appointment today.
Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury depend on the location of the injury and whether it is a complete or incomplete injury. The severity of nerve damage can vary, and it can be temporary or permanent. In a complete spinal cord injury, nerve impulses cannot reach below the area of the injury, resulting in paralysis (loss of movement). In an incomplete injury, some nerve impulses reach below the injury, allowing for some movement and sensation.
Signs and symptoms of a spinal injury are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty balancing
- Difficulty controlling your arms or legs
- Loss of feeling below the injury
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Unusual twisting of the back
Causes of Spinal Cord Injury
Anything that interrupts the flow of nerve impulses can cause a spinal injury. This includes trauma such as diving into shallow water, a motor vehicle accident, or falling from a ladder or roof. Other causes of spinal cord injury are:
- Spinal disc dislocation
Spinal Cord Injury Treatment at Dignity Health
Call 911 if you suspect a spinal cord injury. A spinal cord injury is a medical emergency and requires treatment as quickly as possible to prevent further damage or death. Call for help, but do not move the injured person. Make sure the person is breathing breathing while waiting for emergency assistance.
Once in the emergency room, your doctor may choose any or all of the following treatments:
- Medications such as corticosteroids help reduce swelling around the injury. This relieves pressure on the surrounding tissues and nerves.
- Immobilization using traction or braces keeps the spine aligned so it can heal.
- Surgery realigns the spine, repairs the injury, removes bits of broken bone or foreign objects, or is used to set up traction equipment, such as a halo, to keep the head in one position.
While not all spinal injuries are preventable, you can reduce your risk by taking these safety precautions:
- Check water depth before diving, and don’t dive into shallow water.
- Use safety equipment when on a high level such as a roof.
- Wear a seatbelt while traveling in a motor vehicle.
Dignity Health provides expert care for spinal cord injuries in Arizona.