When injuries occur to the spine, the medical prognosis depends on which of the four sections of the spinal cord are involved and the severity of the injuries.
Understanding Spine Injuries
Spine injuries often result in long-term or permanent injuries and disabilities, depending on the severity of the injury and which part of the spine is affected. There are four main sections of the spinal cord, and each one controls different body movements, bones in the vertebrae, and spinal cord nerves.
The cervical spine controls the head and the neck. It is the top section of the spinal cord that controls the first 7 vertebrae (C-1 to C-7) in the neck. Since it is close to the brain, injuries are often severe and sometimes fatal. Many cervical injuries seen by Henderson personal injury lawyers are caused by motorcycle and car crashes, the leading cause of spine injuries each year. Severe cervical injuries often leave victims paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair.
Thoracic spinal cord injuries affect the abdomen and the lower back. There are 12 vertebrae (T-1 to T-12) located in the thoracic spine that control muscles and nerves essential for breathing and balance. T-1 to T-5 vertebrae affect muscles and nerves in the upper chest, mid-back, and abdominal region, while T-6 to T-12 vertebrae affect muscles and nerves that control posture and balance. Injuries to the thoracic spine often result in limited body movements, balance issues, and respiratory problems.
The lumbar spine is the lowest section of the spinal cord with 5 vertebrae (L1 to L5). These vertebrae are larger because they carry most of the spine’s weight. Injuries to the lumbar spine often result in some loss of function to the hips and legs, but do not affect functions of the upper body. Severe lumbar injuries may cause involuntary bladder control and the need for special medical equipment. If severe hip or leg injuries occur, the victim may require surgery, leg braces, or a wheelchair.
The sacrum is located between the lumbar spine and the tailbone with 5 vertebrae (S-1 to S-5). The sacrum controls functions and nerves in the pelvic organs, the bladder, bowel, and sex organs. Damage to the sacrum is rare and usually occurs from trauma caused by falls from heights. People with arthritis or osteoporosis are prone to stress fractures in the sacral spine.