The prognosis of any spinal cord injury (SCI) largely depends on factors such as the level at which it has occurred, the severity of the damage and whether the injury is considered complete or incomplete.
The spine is divided into different sections all of which serve various parts of the body. The cervical area near the neck, for example, is the most problematic when it comes to spinal cord injuries. It can mean that a person is left completely paralyzed from the neck down, a condition which requires significant care and support.
Below the cervical vertebrae are the thoracic vertebrae which encompass the mid-chest. Injuries to this area generally occur less frequently but they can result in a significant level of physical impairment for the individual.
Next, we see the lumbar region, or lower back, which consists of a series of 5 vertebrae.
The lumbar region of the spine is located immediately below the thoracic vertebrae and is a common area for injuries. Chronic lower back pain is one of the most prevalent medical complaints in modern society today.
Injuries to the spinal cord can be complete or incomplete and affect both or just one side of the body. As with other areas of the spine, the exact location of the injury will generally determine what the symptoms are.
As with other spinal cord injuries, the main causes of damage to this area of the spine are usually traumatic. The most common incidents resulting in lumbar spinal cord injuries include automobile accidents, falls or trauma due to violent acts.
Medical conditions such as degeneration due to age and osteoporosis may also cause injury to this area. In rarer cases, lumbar spinal cord injuries could be caused by birth defects.
The symptoms of a lumbar spinal cord injury will vary depending on the extent of the damage and where it occurs, but they exclusively affect the lower part of the body.
There are some general symptoms that might be evident, however, and these include:
Lumbar spinal cord injury complications range from complete paralysis to just a small impact on mobility. Treatment will depend on the extent of the injury and where it has occurred.
In general, injuries to this region of the spinal cord may be serious, but they are rarely a threat to life in the way that cervical spinal cord injuries can be.
Treatment can include using drugs to reduce swelling and there is evidence that early intervention can improve outcomes. Surgery is used if there is decompression of the nerves. Undertaking this can improve functionality in some individuals.
In most cases where there is a complete injury, the focus is placed on the initial recovery and then physiotherapy and occupational therapy to enable individuals to live as independently as possible. In partial SCI patients, physiotherapy has helped to improve levels of function, but a lot depends on the individual and a host of other factors, including the type of injury sustained.
Heterotopic Ossification and Spinal Cord Injuries
Partial Paralysis vs Full Paralysis After a Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal Cord Injury FAQs
Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries Explained
Degenerative Disc Disease Explained
Sacral Spine Injuries
Spine Curvature Disorders
What is Paraplegia?