Spinal Chord Injuries Spinal cord injuries are caused by traumatic incidences that affect the discs, vertebrae, ligaments or the spinal cord itself.  Traumatic injuries can result from auto accidents, acts of violence, sports, falls, or anything that causes fractures, dislocates or crushes one or more of your vertebrae.  Additional damage usually occurs from bleeding, swelling, fluid accumulation, and inflammation following an injury.  Non-traumatic injuries can be contributed to arthritis, degenerative disease, inflammation, infection or cancer.  Whether the damage is traumatic or non-traumatic it affects the nerves that pass through and below the injured area.  This can result in paralysis, pain and/or tingling in the affected site.  A chest (thoracic) or lower back (lumbar) injury can affect your legs, torso, bladder and bowel control, and sexual function.  An injury to your neck can affect your arms, hands, and possibly your ability to breathe normally. Although a spinal cord injury usually results from an accident there are certain risk factors.  Being a male makes you at a higher risk…up to 75%...than being female.  Age factors into the equation also.  People between 16 and 30 run a higher incidence of injury except that of elderly people who injure themselves in falls.  Engaging in risky behaviors and not taking proper safety precautions is another category.  A relatively minor injury can result in severe damage if you have a disorder that affects your joints or bones, such as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or osteoporosis.  There are tests that can determine if you have a spinal cord injury.  These include, but are not limited to, x-rays, MRI’s, and CT scans.  Unfortunately there are no ways to reverse the damage…treatment is your only option.  Immobilizing the neck and spine at the site of the damage is key to preventing further injury.  Sedation during testing might be done to further reduce the risk of injury and make you more comfortable.  The possible treatments are medications, surgery, and immobilization.  There are also experimental treatments which might be an option if conventional measures are unsuccessful. After the initial injury or disease has been stabilized, doctors will turn their attention to preventing secondary conditions such as, muscle contractures, bowel and bladder issues, pressure ulcers, blood clots and respiratory infections.  Rehabilitation will then begin with a team consisting of a physical therapist, rehabilitation nurse, occupation therapist, social worker, rehabilitation psychologist, dietician, and a doctor who specializes in spinal cord injuries. Recovery from a spinal cord injury takes time.  Many people who have been paralyzed move on to lead productive lifestyles.  It’s essential to remain positive, motivated and have a complete support system.