4 Killer Spinal Injuries and How to Avoid Them

A person’s spinal column has 33 bones and is divided into five levels. They are:

1. The cervical spine, which is in the neck. There are seven cervical vertebrae.
2. The thoracic spine, which is found in the upper back. A person’s ribs attach to the vertebrae of the thoracic spine. There are 12 thoracic vertebrae.
3. The lumbar spine, which is in the mid and lower back. There are five lumbar vertebrae.
4. The sacral spine, which beneath the lower back. The vertebrae in the sacral spine are fused.
5. The coccygeal spine, or the tailbone. The bones here are also fused.

A fall, collision, gunshot wound, sports injury or violent blow to the body can cause a spinal injury, but the cervical and lumbar areas of the spine are more vulnerable than the other areas because they’re not supported by ribs as the thoracic spine is. Suspected spinal injuries must be taken seriously because they can damage the nerves that spread out from the spinal cord and even injure the spinal cord itself. Following are four signal injuries and how to avoid them:

1. Spinal Fracture

Like other fractures, a spinal fracture happens when too much pressure is put on one or more of the bones in the spine. The most common type of spinal fracture is a compression fracture of the vertebral body. This happens when the body of the vertebrae collapses because of a violent, downward pressure. In severe cases, bits of bone can pierce the spinal canal. This is called a burst fracture.

People can avoid the risk of spinal fracture by wearing a seatbelt when they drive and properly securing a young child in a carseat. They can avoid falls by buying sturdy ladders and wearing shoes with treads when using them. In the winter, they should avoid patches of ice by walking on the snow. Older people should equip their bathrooms with grab bars and slip-proof mats in the shower.

2. Spinal Dislocation

In a dislocation, the disc found in the space between two vertebrae is ruptured or stretched to the point where the bones no longer line up the way they should. This can cause the spinal cord, the large nerve that runs down the spinal canal, to be compressed. The bones in the spinal column can become unstable. In some cases, the discs and tendons are dislocated, and the bones are broken at the same time. Dislocations are treated with a back brace or surgery.

The same preventive measures for a spinal fracture are appropriate to avoid spinal dislocation. A person who plays sports should wear and use the right equipment.

3. Herniated Disc

This happens when the disc bulges out of its normal place. Sometimes, a herniated disc does not cause symptoms. If there are symptoms, they can come on slowly or suddenly. They include lumbar pain or pain in the neck, or a shooting pain down the back of the leg. If a disc in the neck is herniated, the person may feel pain in the arm or shoulder as well as the neck.

To lower the risk of a herniated disc, the person should not try to lift an object that’s too heavy for them and should use the right posture when lifting. If they are obese, they should lose weight, and exercise to support the flexibility and strength of the back muscles.

4. Whiplash

This is a strain or sprain in the cervical spine. It’s caused when the head is suddenly moved backward then forward or vice versa. The symptoms may not develop for a couple of days or even weeks. They vary from one patient to the other, but they’re usually pain in the neck, neck stiffness, pain that spreads to the lower back, shoulder or arm, headache, changes in vision, ringing in the ear and dizziness. The person may also suffer weakness, numbness or tingling in the arm.

Whiplash can be avoided by wearing seatbelts and using padded car headrests. People who play contact sports should always wear the proper protective equipment.

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About the author: Wifred Murray

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