spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries can be very devastating. First we will discuss the spinal cord’s structure and function. Then we will tell you how the spinal cord is most commonly injured, along with some statistics involved and some signs of spinal cord injury. We will explain some changes to the body after spinal injuries. Finally we will talk about some of the research in helping spinal cord injury victims.
The spinal cord is the final common pathway from the brain to the muscles. It controls all the sensory inputs received from different locations throughout the body. The spinal cord also controls voluntary muscle responses. Some elementary reflexes are local to the spinal cord, but voluntary muscle control requires the brain as do sensory perceptions. The cells that mediate all functions are nerve cells or neurons.(Spinal Cord- http://anatomy.uams.edu/HTMLpages/anatomyhtml/pp_spinal html) The spinal cord includes nerve cells and axon. Axons carry signals downward from the brain and upward toward the brain. The spinal cord is composed of “white matter” which is myelinated, and since the spinal cord is part of the central nervous system the myelin is produced by oligodendrocytes. The spinal cord also has “gray matter”, which is cell bodies, and is the part of the spinal cord that looks like a butterfly. Meninges (membranes) protect the spinal cord. There are three layers; the dura mater, which is the tougher, outermost layer, the arachnoid mater; it is the delicate, middle layer, and the pia mater is the innermost layer.(The American Medical Association family medical guide-Random House, Inc. New York, 1987) The spinal cord runs through a chain of boney rings known as vertebrae. This vertebral column protects the spinal cord which act like a telephone cable sending messages of feeling and sensation to the brain which converts them into responses such as movement.(What is a Spinal Cord Injuryhttp://www.neurosurgery .org.8089/pubpages/patres/faq spine.html) The spinal cord is made up of segments that control different regions of the body. Nerves from each segment of the spinal cord connect to specific regions of the body. The cervical region or neck are referred to as C1 through C8; they control signals to the neck, arms, and hands. The segments in thoracic or upper back region T1 through T12 relay signals to the torso and some parts of the arms. The segments in the upper lumbar or mid-back region just below the ribs, L1 through L5, control signals to the hips and legs. Last, the sacral segments S1 through S5 lie just below the lumbar segments in the mid-back and control signals to the groin, toes, and some parts of the legs. The effects of spinal cord injury at different segments reflect this organization.(SC-Basic Anatomy of Spine-http://www.goes.com/billr/html/_anatomy_of_a_spinal_cord.html)
Injuries to the spinal cord may be caused indirectly, as by a blow to the head or a fall; by traffic accidents, sports injuries, or violence. The consequences depend on the amount of damage the cord sustains and where the damage occurs. Although spinal injuries are only a small fraction of all injuries; accidents cause an estimated 10,000 spinal cord injuries each year. Each year, more than two million Americans suffer a head or spinal injury; most are males between the ages of 15 and 30. Motor vehicle crashes cause about half of those.(Community First Aid and Safety-Mosby Lifeline, St. Louis, 1993) 200,000 Americans live day-to-day with disabling effects of such traumas. The area of the body affected depends on the location of the damage to the spinal cord. There may be numbness and weakness, or paralysis of all muscles below the level of the injury, including those that control your bowels and bladder. Sometimes muscles on only one side of the body are affected. Pain is not always a symptom of injury to the spinal cord, but injury to nearby nerves sometimes causes sever pain. Unlike the symptoms of certain types of brain injury, which may become apparent only after some time has passed,

symptoms of spinal cord damage almost always appear immediately after the injury that causes them.(The American Medical Association family medical guide-Random House,Inc., New York, 1987)
There are anatomical and functional changes after injury. The types of disability associated with spinal injury vary greatly depending on the severity of the injury; the segment of the spinal cord at which the injury