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Spine Trauma and Fractures

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is a traumatic injury of the spine that can cause significant disability. Quadriplegia can result from injuries to the spinal cord in the cervical region, with associated loss of muscle strength in both arms and legs. Paraplegia is caused by injuries to the spinal cord in the thoracic or lumbar areas, resulting in paralysis of the legs and lower part of the body. 


  • Extreme pain or pressure in the neck, head or back
  • Tingling or loss of sensation in the hand, fingers, feet or toes
  • Partial or complete loss of control over any part of the body
  • Urinary or bowel urgency, incontinence or retention
  • Difficulty with balance and walking
  • Abnormal band-like sensations in the chest, including pain, pressure
  • Impaired breathing after injury
  • Unusual lumps on the head or spine


Treatment of SCI begins before the patient is admitted to the hospital. Emergency medical personnel carefully immobilize the entire spine at the scene of the accident.

Immobilization is continued in the emergency department while more immediate life-threatening problems are identified and addressed. If the patient must undergo emergency surgery because of trauma to the abdomen, chest or another area, immobilization and alignment of the spine are maintained during the operation.

Even if surgery cannot reverse damage to the spinal cord, surgery may be needed to stabilize the spine to prevent future pain or deformity.


Once a patient is stabilized, care and treatment focuses on supportive care and rehabilitation. Family members, nurses or specially trained aides all may provide supportive care. 

Rehabilitation usually begins during the initial hospitalization and includes physical therapy, occupational therapy and counseling for emotional support.

Neck and Spine Regions

In medical terminology, the spine is divided into regions that correspond to their position along the vertebrae in the backbone. These sections are:

  • Cervical vertebrae in the neck (C1-C7)
  • Thoracic vertebrae in the upper back (T1-T12)
  • Lumbar vertebrae in the lower back (L1-L5)
  • Sacral vertebrae in the pelvic region (S1-S5)

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