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A spinal cord injury isn't a single event

Most people who think about a spinal cord injury believe that the injury is caused by one single incident. While it is true that the initial trauma is likely caused by that one event, damage to the spinal cord is caused by a series of events.

In order to understand how the spinal cord is impacted by an injury, you need to know some basics about the central nervous system.

Function of the spinal cord

The spinal cord is responsible for coordinating the sensations in the body. It also coordinates the movements. When the spinal cord is injured, these movements and sensations are impacted and might stop.

When there is a blunt force injury that damages the spinal cord, the spinal nerve cells are affected. This triggers a reaction from the body that releases toxic chemicals in the area that damages the spinal cord even more.

These chemicals and swelling can make the impacts of the injury appear worse than they will be in the long-run. As the swelling reduces, there is likely going to be some increase in function.

Immediate care can help

Immediate care might be able to reduce the severity of the impacts. In the past, medical professionals believed that surgery on a damaged spinal cord should be delayed for several days. It has since been determined that surgery shouldn't be delayed when the spinal cord is compressed. Surgery could be necessary to correct a compression from a blood clot, a bone that's out of place or a herniated disk.

The type of spinal cord injury that a person suffers can impact the possibility of regaining function. People who have an incomplete injury are more likely to have a better recovery than people who have an incomplete injury. A complete injury is one in which no nerve signals can pass through the damaged portion of the spinal cord. An incomplete injury allows some signals to pass through so there is some motor and sensory function below the level of the injury.

People who are involved in a car crash or any other accident that damages the spinal cord should try to get medical care as soon as possible. Keeping the spinal cord stabilized can reduce the severity of the damage. This is one reason why spinal cord injury victims shouldn't be moved without proper help.

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