How Are Spinal Cord Injuries Treated?
Among the many types of injury you can get, ones on the spine are some of the most severe. Damage to this important structure affects many muscles, tissues, bones, and even organs. Since the spine also serves as a hub for the messages sent by the brain to other parts of the body, damage to it can cause a variety of debilitating conditions.
Layers of tissue called the meninges wrap around the nervous tissue inside the spinal cord. Any sudden impact can damage these components, affecting functions like motor skills, articulation, and sphincter control. Most of the time, these effects persist despite getting enough time to heal. Fortunately, physicians can provide treatments and interventions to alleviate symptoms and allow patients to maintain their daily living routines with ease.
What Do Specialists Do To Treat Spinal Cord Injuries?
Before treatment, some specialized diagnostic tests are carried out to assess the impact on the spinal cord. This may include an x-ray, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
An x-ray can reveal fractures, deviations, or shifts in the spine’s structure. Meanwhile, a CT scan combines various images from certain angles to create a cross-sectional illustration of the body’s hard and soft tissues. It gives more detailed results than x-rays.
The MRI scan takes it a step further by using radio and magnetic fields to produce highly detailed imagery of the spine. It can identify problems that are otherwise too hard to capture for CT scans or x-rays.
These three tests are doled out according to the severity of the injury. Once all the problems are diagnosed, specialists will then draw up a treatment plan to fix them and help patients recover.
What Do They Do After A Diagnosis?
Many treatment options exist currently that address spinal cord injuries. Regardless of what kind you may have, receiving the treatment you need immediately matters. The sooner you get treated, the lower the risk of adverse or permanent complications.
Here are common treatment options you might receive:
Trauma to the spinal cord can cause acute injuries. In cases like work accidents or collisions, some foreign objects may find their way into the spine. But in others, bad posture is enough to cause damage.
Either way, if any part of the spinal cord gets compressed or broken due to these injuries, surgery may be the only way to fix them. If you’re interested, you can find more information on neurological surgery related to the spine from many reputable sources online.
The kind of surgery depends on:
- The extent of the damage
- Overall health
- Medical history
- The cause of the injury
- Response to initial treatment, such as pain medication
- Personal preferences on treatment
Most surgical procedures for spinal cord injuries include:
- Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty: These procedures involve injecting glue-like cement to strengthen the fine vertebrae making up the spine. They are usually done to repair compression fractures.
- Spinal decompression: If an impact results in numbness, it may indicate the narrowing of your spinal canal. This procedure corrects this problem by realigning the bones and tissues. This relieves the pressure on the nervous tissue, allowing regular functions like sensation to return.
- Discectomy: This procedure addresses herniated discs, which can cause extreme pain and limited mobility.
- Spinal fusion: It involves removing the spinal disc between two or more vertebrae to fix deviations that harm the integrity of the spinal cord.
Most of these surgeries have their risks. They are done on delicate tissue that is expected to receive a lot of wear and tear. But medical advancements have raised the odds of healing. Other ancillary treatments, like physical therapy, can improve results further.
Spinal cord injury patients take medications to manage their symptoms and enhance healing. They either reduce inflammation and pain or relieve secondary complications to keep them from ruining your quality of life.
Some commonly prescribed spinal injury medications include:
- Antidepressants: These are used for patients who may experience depression or related symptoms from their spinal injuries. The most commonly used antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These regulate neurotransmitter levels to improve the patient’s mood. Take them only when a secondary diagnosis and a prescription are confirmed.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Relatively common, they’re used to relieve pain and swelling after spinal cord surgery. They do this by slowing down the production of prostaglandins.
- Corticosteroids: They help contain damage in the early phases of the injury. They can also be useful in minimizing secondary complications. However, they’re strong drugs that can have severe effects, such as over-exciting the neurons and inhibiting axon regrowth.
It’s crucial to follow your prescribed regimen if you must take these drugs. Always consult your doctor to know where, when, and how you take your medication to avoid the risk of side effects.
Another treatment procedure is the use of orthosis. It involves using devices that stabilize the columns, supporting and speeding up recovery. A common way to do this is to wear braces that keep the spine in a specific shape.
The doctor should let you know how long you must stay in braces. Remember to maintain your follow-ups so they can check how well the orthotics are supporting your recovery. Adjustments may be made to improve results.
4. Rehabilitation Robotics
Experts are now using robots to facilitate spinal cord injury treatment in many ways.
For example, those with mobility problems caused by a spinal injury can work with a robot in physical therapy. These can monitor your progress through programs and teach you the methods for regaining lost functions like articulation.
Some robotic devices help monitor your sensorimotor skills, rebuilding lost coordination.
As stated earlier, a spinal injury can result in pain and weakness that can significantly impact your mobility. In many cases, pain makes it difficult to keep up with a rehabilitation program.
If you’re interested, your doctor may recommend electrotherapy stimulation to help relieve problems with your musculoskeletal system. It focuses on rejuvenating the central nervous system to fix issues like dorsalgia pain. It can help reduce common obstacles to intensive physical therapy, such as persistent trembling.
6. Botox Injections
Botox can help spinal injury patients manage secondary complications effectively. These include spasticity, pain, incontinence, and excessive sweating.
With physical therapy and exercise, the benefits of botox can last longer. Consult your doctor if it’s a good way to relieve some of the issues you face while healing from spinal cord injuries.
Immediacy Is Key
Regardless of how you got your spine injured, you must reach out to experts if you want to avoid serious complications. Pay attention to how your body responds to treatment and cooperate with your healthcare team to get the best possible outcomes. Doing these things will help you recover easily.