The spinal cord is the information superhighway that carries
signals from the brain to the rest of the body by way of nerves.
Motor nerves carry information to muscles and stimulate movement.
Sensory nerves carry information to the brain about sensations
such as touch, position, pain, heat and cold.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Injury to the spinal cord may occur during such
events as a car accident or serious fall. If the spinal cord is
cut or severed, certain bodily functions may be partially or
completely impaired. Because nerves in the spinal cord are
grouped by related types and function, the part of the body
affected by the injury is determined by where the damage is
located on the spinal cord.
Physicians and emergency personnel may employ techniques to
stabilize the spinal column to prevent further injury and to
relieve cord compression. Corticosteroid drugs may be prescribed
by a physician to help prevent swelling around the injury and
minimize cell damage.
The long-term prognosis of a spinal cord injury patient is
largely based on the severity and location of the injury, as well
as the type of nerves that are damaged. Although emergency
intervention and rehabilitation help many spinal cord injury
patients survive and manage their disability, methods for
restoring function after a severe spinal cord injury are limited,
according to the National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke.
Physical and occupational therapy is an important part of the
recovery and management of spinal cord injuries. For more
information about the physical and occupational therapy programs
at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, see the
information available at the Mabee Rehabilitation
What are spinal tumors? According to the
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, spinal cord
tumors are abnormal growths of tissue found inside the bony
spinal column. Noncancerous tumors are referred to as being
benign, and cancerous tumors are called malignant. Whether
identified as benign or malignant, tumors can push against the
spinal column and disrupt or destroy function.
Symptoms of spinal tumors include:
- Sensory changes
- Motor problems
Accurate diagnosis of a brain tumor requires a
formal examination by a physician, as well as the use of imaging
tests such as CT or MRI scans. A physician may also order an
spinal tap to help determine a proper diagnosis. A surgical
biopsy may be required to make an accurate diagnosis and to
ascertain the best treatment plan.
Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are all
options for treating tumors. Please consult a physician for a
proper diagnosis and continuum of care. For a physician referral,
call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355).
Spinal Cord Compression
What is spinal cord compression? Spinal cord
compression occurs when a disorder such as a tumor, an infection
or a broken vertebra causes pressure to be exerted on the spinal
cord, resulting in a disruption of normal function.
Symptoms of spinal cord compression include:
- Loss of, or changes in sensation
- Weakness or paralysis
- Pain and tenderness at the site of the compression
The key to treating a spinal cord compression is
diagnosis of the compression before permanent injury to the
nerves occurs. Once the source of the compression is found,
usually through physical examination combined with computed
tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans,
physicians can map the appropriate course of treatment.
Corticosteroid drugs may be prescribed by a physician to minimize
swelling in or around the cord. If the compression is caused by a
tumor in or near the spinal cord, surgery or radiation therapy
may be used to remove the growth. Abscesses caused by infection
that push on the spinal cord can be treated with antibiotics
and/or drained by a physician.
For more information about the treatment of spinal cord
compression, please consult a physician. For a physician
referral, call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355).
What is a ruptured vertebra? A cartilage disk
separates each vertebra of the spinal cord. These disks act as a
cushion between each vertebra to help soften blows to bony
structure during movement. As a person ages or sustains an
injury, these disks can rupture and rub against or press down on
a nerve, causing pain, a loss of sensation and/or weakness.
Symptoms will depend on the location of the
ruptured disk and may include:
- Pain in the back, shoulder blade, armpit or upper ridge and
tip of the shoulder
- Weakness in legs or arm muscles
- Footdrop (difficulty lifting the front part of the foot)
- Bowel or bladder impairment
- Numbness and tingling of the legs, feet and/or toes
A clear understanding of the symptoms combined
with a physical examination, spinal X-rays, CT and MRI scans will
help your physician accurately diagnose the source of your back
pain. Your physician may also test sensation, coordination,
muscle strength and reflexes.
Typically, most people with a ruptured disk in
the lower back recover without surgery. Aspirin or other
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed by a
physician to help ease the pain. Exercise and physical therapy
may help speed up the recovery process. The Mabee Rehabilitation
Center offers a comprehensive physical therapy program.
Please consult a physician for a list of proper and safe exercise
techniques. More severe disk injuries that cause weakness, loss
of sensation, severe pain, or bladder and/or bowel control
problems may be treated with surgery by removing the disk.