Spinal Problems Injuries

A variety of causes can contribute to back and spine injuries, from car accidents to practicing improper lifting techniques. Spinal injuries range from irritating and slightly painful (as in with a minor sprain or back strain) to debilitating, depending on the portion of the spine that’s affected. Some cases of spinal cord injury may even result in paralysis.

Back Injury: Fractures

Spinal fractures can occur in the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine. If a fracture damages the spinal cord, sensory deficits and/or paralysis can occur below the level of the injury. Fractures of the vertebrae often require immediate medical attention. A doctor can diagnose a fracture with an X-ray.

Generally, a doctor will prescribe conservative (non-surgical) treatment for a spinal fracture—such as pain medication, a back brace and bed rest—before considering surgery. However, depending on the location of the fracture, surgery may be a necessary step.

A cervical spine fracture (or a “broken neck”) is one of the more serious spinal injuries. The treatment for most cervical spine fractures is surgery, though options vary depending on the severity of the fracture. Surgery may fuse the fractured vertebra to an adjacent healthy vertebra, or remove the fractured vertebra and replace it with a bone graft that is fused to adjacent vertebrae.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can lead to partial or full paralysis. The most common cause of spinal cord injury is trauma associated with a vertebral fracture. However, other conditions—including arthritis, inflammation and spinal disc degeneration—can lead to swelling in or around the spinal cord, causing compression. This compression can injure the spinal cord.

There is currently no way for doctors to fully cure an injured spinal cord. However, there are treatments available to help those with spinal cord injuries maintain as normal a life as possible and prevent further injury to the spinal cord.

Whiplash

Whiplash, also called “cervical acceleration-deceleration injury,” is a common cervical spine injury. Whiplash is an injury to the muscles and ligaments of the neck that may also include injury to:

  • Blood vessels
  • Bones
  • Facet joints
  • Invertebral discs
  • The esophagus.

Treatment for whiplash depends on the nature and extent of the back injury, and may include medications and physical therapy.

Other Back Injuries

Other types of back injury include muscle strains and ligament sprains. These injuries are common causes of back pain. To help prevent strains and sprains, use proper lifting technique, practice good posture and maintain a strong, flexible back.

Resources

Davenport, M. (n.d.). Fracture, cervical spine. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/824380-overview

Eidelson, S. (n.d.). Sprains — Strains — Soft tissue injuries. Retrieved March 19, 2010, from http://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/spinal-cord-injury/sprains-strains-soft-tissue-injuries

Hunter, O. (n.d.). Cervical sprain and strain: Treatment and medication. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/306176-treatment

Parker, L. (n.d.). Cervical spine fractures. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from http://www.hughston.com/hha/a.cspine.htm