Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

As soon as we hear the term ‘spinal cord injury‘ (SCI) we tend to imagine a tragic road accident or a fall during an adventure sport causing a person to be bedridden for his whole life. Well, that does happen a lot of time but that’s not always the case. A spinal cord injury is not always caused due to road accident nor does every person with a spinal cord injury spend their lives in bed.

Spinal cord injury is a very vast and complex topic. In this article, we are explaining the common causes of spinal cord injury. We all need to be aware of the things that can cause spinal cord injury because it can happen to anyone at any time.

Before we proceed to the common causes of spinal cord injury, let us introduce you to some of the crude facts about it.

  • According to World Health Organization (WHO), roughly around 2,50,000 to 5,00,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury every year.
  • Most of the cases of spinal cord injury are due to avoidable reasons and can be prevented if people are made ‘aware’.

Cause of Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) refers to the damage to spinal cord. This damage can be caused by trauma, disease, or degeneration. Currently, the majority of spinal cord injury cases are related to trauma but the cases of diseases-related spinal cord injuries are on the rise globally. The symptoms of spinal cord injury vary depending on the severity and location of the injury. We mostly talk about the severe cases of spinal cord injury where the injured person loses control over bladder and bowel movement, faces difficulty in breathing, and is practically paralyzed. But, there are instances where the symptoms are so mild that the person remains unaware of the injury for years until the symptoms become severe.

1. Traumatic Injury

The leading cause of severe cases of spinal cord injury is related to trauma. The reasons for traumatic injury may include, but are not limited to –

  • Road accident where a person gets hit by a vehicle or falls from his own vehicle injuring the spine.
  • Work-related accidents. For example, a mason falling from a height while building a structure, a worker getting injured by a piece of heavy machinery while at work.
  • Electrical accidents may also lead to traumatic spinal cord injury.
  • Accidental falls. For example, a senior citizen falling off a stair or slipping on a road.
  • Acts of violence. For example, getting stabbed or a gunshot wound damaging the spine.
  • Sporting and recreational activity-related injury. For example, falling off a cliff while trekking, getting injured while riding a horse, paragliding or diving into a shallow water.
  • Suicide attempts like trying to hang oneself may lead to permanent injury to the spine.

2. Non-Traumatic Injury

Apart from the above-listed traumatic injuries, there are several non-traumatic causes of spinal cord injury that are caused by certain diseases and degenerations.

  • Tumors surrounding the area of the spine can cause injury to the spine resulting in the same complications as traumatic injury
  • Congenital reasons may also lead to injury to the spine
  • Disruption to the blood supply to the spinal cord due to any reason may damage the spine internally
  • Multiple sclerosis is an immune-related disorder that often leads to spinal cord injury cutting the communication between the brain and the body
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that affected Stephen Hawking, is a nerve-related disease that can become a cause of non-traumatic spinal cord injury
  • Infection to the spine is also one of the leading causes of non-traumatic spinal cord injury
  • Radiations and surgery-related complications too sometimes lead to spinal cord injury
  • Cancer that has the risk of spreading to the bones may compress the spines thus causing an injury
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