Spinal Cord Injury
Jason C. Eck, DO, MS
Dr. Eck received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Catholic University of America in Biomedical Engineering, followed by a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University. Following this he worked as a research engineer conducting spine biomechanics research. He then attended medical school at University of Health Sciences. He is board eligible in orthopaedic surgery.
- What is the spinal cord?
- What is a spinal cord injury?
- What are the causes of spinal cord injury?
- What are the symptoms of spinal cord injury?
- How is a spinal cord injury diagnosed?
- How is a spinal cord injury treated?
- What is the outlook for patients with spinal cord injury?
- Is there a cure for spinal cord injury?
- Spinal Cord Injury At A Glance
- Where can I get more information on spinal cord injury?
- NIH spinal cord injury: treatments and rehabilitation
- A short history of the treatment of spinal cord injury
- What is a spinal cord injury?
- How does the spinal cord work?
- What happens when the spinal cord is injured?
- What are the immediate treatments for spinal cord injury?
- How does a spinal cord injury affect the rest of the body?
- How does rehabilitation help people recover from spinal cord injuries?
- How is research helping spinal cord injury patients?
- The future of spinal cord research
- Patient Comments: Spinal Cord Injury - Causes
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What is the spinal cord?
The spinal cord is a collection of nerves that travels from the bottom of the brain down your back. There are 31 pairs of nerves that leave the spinal cord and go to your arms, legs, chest and abdomen. These nerves allow your brain to give commands to your muscles and cause movements of your arms and legs. The nerves that control your arms exit from the upper portion of the spinal cord, while the nerves to your legs exit from the lower portion of the spinal cord. The nerves also control the function of your organs including your heart, lungs, bowels, and bladder. For example, signals from the spinal cord control how fast your heart beats and your rate of breathing.
Other nerves travel from your arms and legs back to the spinal cord. These nerves bring back information from your body to your brain including the senses of touch, pain, temperature, and position. The spinal cord runs through the spinal canal. This canal is surrounded by the bones in your neck and back called vertebrae which make up your back bone. The vertebrae are divided into 7 neck (cervical) vertebrae, 12 chest (thoracic) vertebrae and 5 lower back (lumbar) vertebrae. The vertebrae help protect the spinal cord from injury.
What is a spinal cord injury?
The spinal cord is very sensitive to injury. Unlike other parts of your body, the spinal cord does not have the ability to repair itself if it is damaged. A spinal cord injury occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord either from trauma, loss of its normal blood supply, or compression from tumor or infection. There are approximately 10,000 new cases of spinal cord injury each year in the United States. They are most common in white males. Specifically, 80% of spinal cord injuries occur in males, and 2/3 occur in whites. Most injuries occur in patients 16-30 years of age.
Spinal cord injuries are described as either complete or incomplete. In a complete spinal cord injury there is complete loss of sensation and muscle function in the body below the level of the injury. In an incomplete spinal cord injury there is some remaining function below the level of the injury. In most cases both sides of the body are affected equally.
An injury to the upper portion of the spinal cord in the neck can cause quadriplegia-paralysis of both arms and both legs. If the injury to the spinal cord occurs lower in the back it can cause paraplegia-paralysis of both legs only.
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