What are Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries Other than Accidents?

October 3, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading causes of spinal cord injuries are car accidents, falls, and violence. There is often some type of sudden, traumatic event that causes a spinal cord injury. The severity and long term implications depend on several factors, including where on the spine the injury occurred and whether it is a complete or incomplete injury. There are, however, some spinal cord injuries that occur from causes other than an accident, fall, or violence. These injuries can happen suddenly or develop over time, depending on the source. Spinal cord injuries can be sustained at birth or develop as a result of disease or degeneration.

1. Spinal cord injuries at birth

The birth process can lead to infant spinal cord injuries in a few different ways. Difficult deliveries can cause spinal cord injuries. For example, delivery is more difficult for the mother and child when an infant is breech or facing up. Repositioning the infant or going through the birth process with the infant in a more difficult position can both lead to spinal cord injuries. In addition, an infant with Spina Bifida is at an increased risk of spinal nerve damage during and after birth. If an infant with Spina Bifida is misdiagnosed and mishandled as a result, it can lead to an increased severity in the symptoms of the condition. The prognosis of these types of injuries is varies greatly from case to case. Some children recover completely while others have lifelong complications as a result of the injury.

2. Spinal cord injuries from disease

It is also possible to sustain a spinal cord injury through disease. Some illnesses can cause infections and inflammation that result in damage to the spinal cord. One example of an illness that can cause a spinal cord injury is transverse myelitis (TM). A person with transverse myelitis experiences damage to the spinal cord through inflammation. The inflammation causes damage that impacts the ability of the spinal cord nerves to communicate with the rest of the body. The inflammation that causes the damage can come from a variety of sources including viral infections and inadequate blood flow. The long term impact of TM is different from person to person. Some recover fully while others have lifelong damage that leads to paralysis.

Cancer is another disease that can lead to spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord tumor may result in pain, numbness, and paralysis in patients. Treatment options for spinal cord tumors can include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The length of the illness and success of treatment both impact whether or not the symptoms become permanent.

3. Spinal cord injuries due to degeneration

Degeneration can cause spinal cord injuries that lead to paralysis in some cases. The degeneration can be a result of chronic conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis. In addition, the disks in the back can degenerate over time, due to age, which can lead to pain, injury, and difficulty with mobility.        

These indirect causes of spinal cord injuries are much less common than accidents, but the end result can be just as severe. Similar to spinal cord injuries caused by accidents, the prognosis for these indirect types of injuries depends on the location and severity of the injury.

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