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Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury of any severity can greatly impact a person’s life. The spinal cord is a complex bundle of nerve fibers that resides within the protected space inside the spinal column. The spinal cord plays a critical role in the body’s ability to function, as every nerve in the body can be traced back to it. 

Defined as any damage to the spinal cord or the nerves at the end of the spinal canal, a spinal cord injury can cause permanent damage to the body and its ability to carry out necessary tasks. Injury to the spinal cord can result from direct trauma to the nerves themselves, or indirect trauma to the surrounding bones, soft tissue, and vessels, and lead to a host of symptoms. Spinal cord injuries can be caused by:

  • Slips or falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • Diseases such as cancer or arthritis

There are two kinds of spinal cord injuries – complete and incomplete. When a complete injury occurs, a person loses all ability to move and feel below the level of injury. An incomplete injury leaves a person with some function below the level of injury – though that function may be impaired. 

Currently, there is no way to reverse the damage caused by spinal cord injuries. However, there are a number of treatments aimed at promoting nerve cell regeneration and improving the function of a patient’s remaining nerves. Treatment for a spinal cord injury varies depending on each patient’s specific injury. However, the main kinds of treatment are:

  • Surgery - often to remove fragments of bones, or to prevent future pain and deformity 
  • Rehabilitation - including physical and occupational therapy
  • Medication - especially to control pain and muscle spasms

Tampa General Hospital has a full staff of physicians and surgeons who are among the top in their field for spinal cord injury treatment.