Unlike fractures in the limbs, spinal fractures are uniquely complex due to the spine's role in housing the spinal cord and nerves. Injuries here can result from minor ligament or tendon damage, meningeal (spinal membrane) injuries, fractures, compressions, dislocations, and neurological damage. These injuries can sometimes lead to paralysis.

Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

Various factors contribute to spinal injuries. Road traffic incidents are the leading cause (45%), followed by high falls (20%), sports (15%), violence (15%), and miscellaneous activities (5%). Conditions like osteoporosis and spinal tumours are also significant contributors, especially in individuals aged 18-25, with males being four times more likely to suffer spinal fractures.

Identifying Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries

Symptoms vary based on injury severity and location, including neck and back pain, numbness, muscle tension, fatigue, and incontinence. More severe cases may lead to paralysis, extensive nervous system damage, and spinal cord damage.

Diagnosis Process for Spinal Cord Injuries

Individuals involved in severe accidents displaying these symptoms should limit movement and seek medical support, such as a back brace. Doctors conduct physical examinations and may suggest imaging tests like CT or MRI scans, particularly for suspected neurological or spinal cord damage.

Treatment Approaches for Spinal Injuries

Initial Treatment Steps

Treatment commences with pain management medication and the use of a back brace to prevent further injury. Depending on the injury's nature, patients might need additional support like a padded halo vest, a neck brace, or even surgery.

The Role of a Back Brace in Recovery

A back brace is essential for:

  • Stabilising the spine at the injury site.
  • Limiting spinal movement during recovery.
  • Alleviating movement-related pain.

Patients with spinal fractures or injuries leading to movement loss or nerve damage should wear a back brace for 8-12 weeks or until the vertebrae heal. Physiotherapy is also a crucial part of the recovery process.

Surgical Options: Discectomy and Spinal Fusion

In cases where spinal fractures cause instability or vertebral dislocation, surgical intervention may be necessary. This can involve vertebral restructuring, repositioning, or fusing damaged spine joints. These procedures aim to alleviate pain and aid neurological recovery. Using a neck pillow can also relieve spinal nerve pressure.

Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty Procedures

For vertebrae compressed due to osteoporosis or certain tumours, vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are effective treatments. Vertebroplasty involves cement injection into the compressed vertebrae, while kyphoplasty raises the vertebrae with a balloon before cement injection.