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Causes and effects of a spinal cord injury

You may imagine people who suffer trauma to nerves encased within the spinal column are older or frail. In fact, most Chicago spinal cord injury patients may be younger than you think. Males, ages 15 to 35, are in the high-risk group, due to a tendency to participate in strenuous or unsafe activities more than females or other age groups.

Direct or indirect damage to the spinal cord often occurs as the result of disease, falls, sports, violence, motor vehicle or work-related accidents. Health conditions commonly associated with aging like stenosis, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis can injure the spinal cord. A weak or narrowed spine also increases chances of a direct injury.

Damage to the vertebrae or cushioning discs in the spinal column can generate a spinal cord injury. Trauma to the spinal cord is linked to compression or abnormal movements, like twists or pulls. Injuries may be triggered by pressure from swelling around or within the spinal cord.

The site of an injury determines how the body responds. Damage occurs below an injury site. Therefore, more body functions may be affected for neck injuries than damage to the lower back.

Complete spinal cord injuries cause a permanent loss of function. At least some function – like sensory but not motor function -- is preserved with incomplete injuries.

Among other symptoms, spinal cord injuries may cause pain, numbness, weakness, paralysis and muscle spasms, plus breathing, bowel and bladder difficulties. Patients may experience problems with blood pressure and temperature regulation.

X-rays, CT scans and MRI tests are conducted to identify damage. When possible, medicines and surgeries are used to treat and correct conditions, like swelling, contributing to the injury. Extensive rehabilitation and therapy may follow.

The medical costs associated with spinal cord injuries can be extremely high, particularly for patients with a permanent disability. Negligence claims for accident-related injuries may help victims recover compensation.

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