Causes of spinal cord injuries may include infections, poor blood supply or compression for example by way of a tumour. A spinal Injury of the type described may cause weak muscles or paralysis, loss of or abnormal sensation, and inhibition or loss of control of the bladder or bowel.

How is a spinal injury usually diagnosed?

There are a number of guidelines published by NICE on how to deal with chronic back pain and spinal emergency, this can be found on their website.  Medical practitioners use your history, symptoms and results of a physical examination and imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging in order to reach a diagnosis.

What does the spine do?

The spinal cord is the bodies message centre it conveys instructions from the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord card caries these messages and it is protected by the back bones which stack on top of one another and are separated and cushioned by disks made of cartilage.

Does the whole of the spine do the same job, and if not which bit does what job?

Different parts of the spine are concerned with relaying messages to different parts of the body. The spine is divided into four sections, cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), lumbar (lower back), and sacral (pelvis) (C, T, L, or S). The vertebrae are also numbered.

The spinal nerves exit the spine and communicate with limbs at different points in the spine. By noting where a person has weakness, paralysis, sensory loss, or other loss of function, it can be determined where the spinal cord is damaged.

Sensation to the surface of the skin is channelled through the spine and is split into areas called dermatomes. A dermatome is an area of skin whose sensory nerves all come from a single spinal nerve root.

The spinal cord ends in the lower back but the lower spinal nerve roots continue, forming a long channel of nerves which look like a horse’s tail and is given the Latin name for horses tail the ‘cauda equina’ – see our pages on Cauda Equina Syndrome.

What signals are sent up and down the spine?

There are two types of message which are sent up and down the spine. (1) Motor to muscles to stimulate muscle movement. (2) Sensory such as touch, position, pain, and temperature.

How does a spinal injury manifest?

People who are suffering with spinal injury may suffer any one of the following depending on which level of the spine has been injured.

  • Weakness
  • Loss of sensation (such as the ability to feel a light touch, pain, temperature, or vibration or to sense where the arms and legs are)
  • Changes in reflexes
  • Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence)
  • Loss of bowel control (faecal incontinence)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Paralysis
  • Back pain

Sudden onset of any of these symptoms may warrant an emergency referral and treatment before symptoms become permanent and irreversible.

Here at Metcalfes we have an experienced team of Medical Negligence Lawyers who can offer you specialist advice.   We deal with all areas of medical negligence including delayed diagnosis. If you believe that you or a family member has suffered as a result of medical negligence then please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

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