Spinal Cord Injury

Spine-Feature-spinal cord injury

The spine is the major support structure for the body, an intricate and delicate network of blood vessels, nerve endings, tendons, muscles, ligaments, vertebrae, discs and joints. It is the skeletal structure that runs from the base of the skull to the tail bone and acts as protection for the spinal cord. It acts as a flexible tube made up of vertebra and discs through which the spinal cord travels carrying nerve messages to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and organs of the body. Because the spine is so complex, we've created The Spine Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. The center combines the expertise of our integrated team of specialists to provide easy access to our dedicated experts and help get to the source of your pain. Together, our specialists take a whole-person approach to your care, evaluating your condition based on such factors as your symptoms, examination findings, lifestyle, occupation and recreational pursuits. 

What is a Spinal Cord Injury

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a spinal cord injury results from a quick and forceful impact to the spine that causes a fractured or dislocated vertebrae. The spine is composed of four main sections: the cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral segments. Injuries to the spine can range from a mild musculoskeletal sprain or strain, to the catastrophic, including permanent paralysis or even death. Due to the potential for permanent or life threatening consequences, all spinal injuries should be treated immediately by qualified medical professionals. While most serious injuries to the spine result from forceful impact, still others are congenital (present at birth) and postural in nature. Some of these are indicators to more serious injury to the spine. 

Common Spine Injuries and Conditions 

More than 65 million Americans experience back pain each year, and four out of five adults will endure back pain during their lifetimes. Sometimes, back or neck pain results from a simple twist or tweak. But often there's an underlying cause. At The Spine Center at MedStar Good Samaritan, we treat the full range of spinal conditions, including but not limited to: 

  • Sprains/strains 
  • Fractures 
  • Dislocations 
  • Bulging, ruptured, herniated discs: These protruding discs are the result of spinal degeneration and weakness. Disc material can "bulge" or be pushed into the space containing the spina cord or nerves, causing pain, numbness or weakness in the arms or legs. 
  • Osteoporosis: A bone disease marked by a progressive decrease in bone desnity and strength. Brittle, porous bones in the spine fracture easily, resulting in pain. 
  • Sciatica: When a herniated or ruptured disc presses on the sciatic nerve, it results in a burning or "shooting" type of low back pain or numbness down one leg. Sciatica may also be caused by other conditions, which should be ruled out or investigated further. 
  • Scoliosis: This condition is characterized by abnormal (lateral) curves in the spinal column, usually resulting from a congenital deformity or as a secondary symptom from another condition. Scoliosis can be painful, especially for adults. 
  • Spine Deformity: This refers to spinal curvatures other than those that are lateral (scoliosis), which are also marked by pain. Other common deformities are kyphosis, upper back curvature resulting in a humped back, and lordosis, inward lower back curvature resulting in a sway back. 
  • Spinal degeneration: Disc wear and tear can lead to collapse of these normal "cushions" between the vertebral bodies (bones), which results in back stiffness and pain. 
  • Spinal stenosis: A narrowing of the spaces around the nerves in the spine that can cause pain in the arms or legs. In addition, patients can have symptoms of arm or leg numbness, weakness, clumsiness or difficulty walking. 

Please note: If you notice any change in sensory or motor function anywhere in the body after a neck and/or back injury, prompt medical attention should be consulted before resuming any further physical activity. 

Treatment Options 

The Spine Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital is home to a completely integrated team of experts that includes spine, arthritis, pain management and physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, as well as physical and occupational therapists. As a result, your care may involve a variety of specialists who prescribe a full range of treatments, from anti-inflammatory medications to therapy to pain management measures. 

  • Neurosurgery: This branch of medicine deals with the surgical treatment of problems associated with the brain, spine, peripheral nerves and arteries in the neck. 
  • Orthopaedic spine surgery: This surgical sub-specialty focuses on injuries and diseases of the spine, which include the vertebral bodies, discs, spinal cord and nerves. 
  • Pain management: Pain management is a multi-disciplinary approach to treating pain. It can be as simple as providing anti-inflammatory medications or as complex as epidural steroid injections and joint blocks, which deliver anti-inflammatory and anesthetic medications directly to the source of your pain. 
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation: Rehabilitation physicians are nerve, muscle and bone experts who treat injuries or illnesses that affect how you move. Rehabilitation medicine often includes physical therapy to help improve strength, mobility and fitness, as well as occupational therapy to help with daily activities. 
  • Rheumatology: The medical specialty that provides nonsurgical treatment of arthritis and other diseases that cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. 

Learn more about back and spine treatments.

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