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Injuries of the spine: classification, symptoms, treatment

The spine performs an important function: it supports the trunk in an upright position and is the key link of the musculoskeletal system. Any injury to the spine and spinal cord can have serious consequences for the whole body. Various injuries of the spinal column account for more than 10% of all back injuries. They are common in mature people regardless of sex. Sometimes back problems also occur in children, but, as a rule, such traumas are characteristic of the cervical department and are classified as generic injuries. In women, spine traumas have recently begun to be observed much less often because the number of women giving birth by cesarean section has significantly increased.


Damage to the spinal cord is an extremely serious type of disruption of the musculoskeletal system. The most common injuries of the spine are due to excessively heavy loads and impacts on it. It can be a fall from a height, reckless diving to a depth, collapse of heavy loads on a person, accidents and other road accidents. Sometimes the type of injury can be determined by the nature of the physical impact on the spinal column. For example, in car accidents, the most common damage to the cervical spine, and when falling from a height, there are often fractures of the sacral or lower-thoracic areas.

Problems with the spinal cord have a different character. In adults, as a rule, trauma to the spine is due to the external force of the impact on various parts of the back. Age-related damage, such as cartilage wear, can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal and the development of stenosis. This leads to pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves and, as a consequence, to the violation of their functionality. Children's injuries are more likely to occur because the spinal cord is too tight or too sharp.

Types of spinal injuries

The signs of spine trauma depend on its type and nature. The types of all possible injuries are divided into bruises, tears, fractures, dislocations and squeezing. They directly affect the recovery and treatment methods, as well as the consequences of the disease and the recovery rate of the patient.

  1. Fracture of the cervical spine is a violation of the integrity of the bones, in contrast to the dislocation, which is characterized by an incorrect alignment of the vertebrae along its axis. These injuries can damage the spinal cord. Compression fracture occurs due to a strong compression of the vertebral body in certain parts of the spine, in which part of it moves forward and downward. In this case, the intervertebral discs can be displaced and protrude into the spinal canal. Trauma is most common in car accidents or a sharp push of the body forward.
  2. When a dislocation occurs, there is a rupture of ligaments or their strong extension. Such damage can "lock" the vertebrae one above the other on one or both sides of the spinal column. Problems with the spinal cord may occur in this case, depending on how mobile the ligament is. To restore the functionality of the vertebrae, the patient may need surgery.
  3. Paraplegia occurs due to damage to the lower thoracic spine by means of a bruise.
  4. Quadriplegia also occurs due to a bruise, in which the upper-thoracic and cervical vertebrae are adversely affected . Such trauma to the spine leads to loss of mobility in all limbs.

Injuries to the cervical spine: features

The cervical spine is very prone to injury and injury. About 20% of all vertebral column injuries are in this area, more than 35% of them end in fatalities. Damage to the cervical spine is due to the fact that during a sharp impact the head and torso of a person move in opposite directions.

Injuries to the cervical spine are very serious and dangerous. Of all known types of such lesions, characteristic for this part of the spine, the most common is a fracture of the cervical spine, or "whiplash" injury. As a rule, it occurs in drivers or passengers caught in a car accident. During a sudden braking of the vehicle, a sudden jolt by inertia is transmitted to all people in the cab. Injury of the cervical spine is characterized by sharp acute pain, restriction of the motor function of the neck, dizziness, loss of consciousness.

Damage of the spine in the chest and lower back

Quite often, various types of thoracic spine and lumbar injuries are exposed. The most common include fractures that occur when falling from a height or car crash. In addition, the elderly are also at risk of damage to these departments due to the development of age-related osteoporosis. Damage to the spinal cord can be caused due to the severe degree of fracture of the spine.

When the thoracic spine is damaged, the person experiences back pain from mild to severe, which is aggravated by movement. If the spinal cord is touched, the numbness of the limbs, their tingling, weakness and inability to control the functioning of the bladder and intestine are added to the symptoms. The most common injuries of the thoracic and lumbar spine are as follows:

  1. Intervertebral joint sprain of vertebral joints. It occurs when forcing the vertebrae forward or backward. Increased pain is increased with direct or reverse movement of the spine.
  2. Muscle rupture is a common back injury for many sports, when the muscle corset and the spine can be injured in sudden movements. Photos of such injuries, obtained with the help of a tomograph, allow us to determine the degree of their severity. Signs of the disease include acute pain when tilting, bending the body back and forth and rotating.
  3. Dislocations of costal-vertebral joints that occur either as a result of forced displacement of the vertebrae in the thoracic region, or as a result of inflammation from arthritis. In this case the pain intensifies during coughing, sneezing, deep chest breathing.
  4. Fractures are very common in contact sports, with a fall or accident. Pain lasts a fairly long time and appears even with a slight rotation of the body.
  5. Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, is also a serious trauma. Symptoms of the disease do not always have a place to be and can often vary depending on each case.

Birth injuries of the spine

Problems with the back in children are most often characterized as birth injuries of the cervical spine. One of the defects is an infant spina bifida, in which the vertebrae do not completely cover the raw nerves. Often a similar defect occurs in the lumbosacral section, but there are exceptions. Damage to the cervical spine during childbirth occurs in 40% of cases and is often accompanied by a generic craniocerebral trauma. The reason for this are the following situations:

  • Discrepancy between the size of the fetal head and the maternal pelvis;
  • Improper presentation of the fetus in the uterine cavity;
  • A large fruit (weighing more than 4500 g);
  • Premature pregnancy;
  • Oligohydramnion (maluvial fluid) and other congenital pathologies.

Despite the severity of the damage, the generic spina bifida in children, as a rule, has favorable prognosis when it is localized in the lumbosacral spine. During a period of active growth, a child does not experience discomfort in the back, but for this, parents should monitor his nutrition and weight. An increase in body weight will cause pressure on the unformed vertebrae, which will exacerbate the disease. With a trauma to the cervical region, there are a number of troubles. Such children often have problems with academic achievement, suffer from a memory disorder, it is difficult for them to concentrate their attention on the subject. Sometimes a cleft can cause paralysis, weakness of the legs, abnormal eye movements, orthopedic problems and so on.

Spinal cord injuries

Sometimes, with a spinal injury, damage extends to the spinal cord. This can occur due to external influences such as severe bruising, squeezing or fracture of the cervical spine, although damage can occur at any part of the spinal column.

Spinal cord trauma is usually indicated by the following symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling in the limbs;
  • Pain and stiffness in the area of spine injury;
  • Signs of shock;
  • Inability to move limbs;
  • Loss of control of urination;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • Unnatural positioning of the head.

Spinal cord problems are often the result of unpredictable accidents or violence. The causes of injuries are usually:

  • a fall;
  • Diving in shallow water (occurs from a blow to the bottom);
  • Injuries after a car accident;
  • falling from height;
  • TBM during sports competitions;
  • Trauma from electrical current.

First aid for spinal injuries

The consequences of spinal injuries can be quite serious, so it is very important to be able to provide timely and correctly the first aid to the victim. Any damage to the spine is considered difficult, dangerous and requires immediate hospitalization. First aid for trauma to the spinal column depends on the nature and extent of damage due to its large length, complexity of structure and functional significance. The consequences for the body after a trauma of acute impact directly depend on how skillfully the person who provides first aid in a difficult situation behaves.

Activities to assist the victim after a spinal injury include:

  • Immediate call of an ambulance;
  • Providing the victim with a firm, level surface;
  • Ensuring full immobility to the victim, even if he believes that he can move independently;
  • Artificial respiration on condition of his absence. At the same time, you can not toss the victim's head back, but rather try to push forward his lower jaw.


When the victim is taken to the hospital, the doctors will examine him and conduct a full neurological examination to determine the nature and location of the injury. The most popular methods of diagnosis include the X-ray of the spine.

If the spine is damaged, an x-ray photo will show the place of the injury and help determine its nature. If you need more detailed examination, as well as to identify injuries of the spinal cord, use magnetic resonance and computer tomography and a series of tests to determine the rate of transmission of nerve signals to the brain.

Treatment of spinal injuries

Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse the damage to the spinal cord. However, there are progressive methods of treatment that promote the regeneration of nerve cells, improve the function of nerves and restore the body.

If there is a trauma to the spine, the treatment focuses on preventing further progression of the disease and empowering the victim. He is taken to the intensive care unit, where the patient will be offered medicines, surgical or experimental treatment by prescribing physiotherapy procedures. Medications are used to treat acute forms of damage to the spinal cord and spine. To stabilize the spinal column and bring it to the correct position will need a special traction. In some cases, the patient is fixed to the neck with a hard collar. A special bed can also contribute to the immobilization of the body.

In cases of severe spinal injury, surgery may be required to remove fragments of crushed bones and other foreign objects. In addition, surgical care is necessary for hernia of intervertebral discs or for possible compression of individual vertebrae. These measures are important for the stabilization of the vertebral axis in order to prevent pain and deformities.

The goal of physiotherapy for patients with spine and spinal cord injuries is to optimize the quality of life by increasing physical capabilities. The program of physiotherapeutic measures is designed to increase the capacity of each patient to achieve the optimal level of functioning of the spine. It includes the following principles:

  1. Assessment of major violations and their severity.
  2. Limitation of the activities of the victim.
  3. Development of physiological measures and control over the implementation of procedures.

Intervention of physiotherapy is the most effective method in managing disorders related to physical handicaps, loss of motility and sensory.

When the condition of the victim is stabilized, he will need a rehabilitation course, the purpose of which is to preserve and strengthen the existing muscle functions, fine motor skills and training motor skills. Rehabilitation measures can prevent possible complications after the trauma and improve the quality of life.


Unfortunately, injuries to the spine and spinal cord are unpredictable, but any person is able to prevent misfortune if he observes simple security measures.

  1. Always fasten your seat belts while riding in the car.
  2. During sports, wear special protective equipment.
  3. Do not dive in places with poorly understood bottom.
  4. Engage in strengthening the muscular corset to ensure proper backbone support.
  5. Do not drink alcohol while driving.

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