Spinal cord injury prevention

Spinal Cord Injury Prevention

The spinal cord is one of the most intricate, important and delicate structures of the body. Running from the base of the skull down the middle of the back, it’s responsible for transmitting messages to and from the brain.

When we decide to lift a cup or kick a ball, those instructions are transmitted to our muscles via the spinal cord. The cord is also involved in autonomic activity such as breathing and the beating of the heart as well as bowel and bladder control. 

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can take many forms. Relatively simple whiplash damage to the neck can cause months of pain and discomfort. When the spinal cord is fully severed, however, the individual is likely to lose all sensation and movement below the level of injury.

Typically, the higher up the damage, the more severely the body can be affected and this will often have life-changing and permanent implications for those who sustain such an injury.

While spinal injuries are generally caused by accidents, illness that affects the spinal cord can also lead to full or partial paralysis.

Is There a Cure For Paralysis?

Advances are being made every day in the world of spinal cord injury research but, as yet, there is no real definitive cure. Assistive technology such as exo-skeletons that aid movement and breakthrough spinal cord injury treatment options such as epidural stimulation are helping to change the outlook for individuals who have sustained a serious injury to the spine and improve the potential for recovery in the future.

However, as the common phrase goes ‘prevention is better than cure’. And whilst the accidents or incidents that lead to a spinal cord injury might at times seem unavoidable, there are still some useful ways to help prevent serious damage from occurring.

How to Prevent Spinal Cord  Injuries

Man wearing car seat belt

A lot will depend on the risk that you expose yourself to. It’s not just by chance that the majority of people with SCIs are men and that accidents often occur during sporting or adventure-related activity.

1. General Spinal Cord Injury Prevention

  • The first is a fairly obvious one – always wear a seatbelt when driving or as a passenger in a car. Also never drive a vehicle of any kind if you have taken drugs or consumed alcohol.
  • Simple accidents can lead to spinal cord injuries as well, however. Make sure you keep floors at home clean so that you are not likely to slip over or trip.
  • If you suspect that someone may have a spinal cord injury, do not attempt to move them as this could make a bad situation even worse. Wait until the medical staff arrive and are able to evaluate the person who has been injured.

2. Spinal Cord Injury Precautions in Sports

Contact sports such as American football have a higher instance of spinal cord injury as you might expect. But even if you love riding a bike or skateboarding, you are going to be at risk. Taking a little time to protect yourself or anticipate the dangers can help:

  • Always wear a helmet, whether you are riding a motorbike or an ordinary bicycle.
  • If you love skateboarding, always wear protective headgear and check the area where you will be riding for any debris or hazards before you start.
  • If you are playing a contact sport, learn the rules and get proper instruction and don’t take on someone who is heavier, bigger and more adept than you.
  • Extreme sports are another matter. Find the best ways to protect yourself but understand that there are high levels of risk involved that make it much more likely you will get a spinal cord injury.
  • You might think that swimming is less dangerous sport but diving into shallow water is one of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries in the USA and worldwide.

How to Prevent Spinal Injuries in Children

Play area supervision notice

Kids can do some pretty dangerous things and most parents worry about their safety constantly. There are a few precautions you can take:

  • Always make sure you keep smaller children under supervision at all times.
  • If you are playing in a park, check the equipment on offer to make sure it is not damaged and is suited to the age of your child.
  • Equipment like home trampolines can seem like a great idea but they can also be dangerous. Supervising to make sure that children don’t do anything silly is always a good idea.

Reducing Risk

It’s not always possible to avoid accidents but by taking care and following general health and safety precautions the risk can be minimised.

For example, a significant number of spinal injuries are caused by car accidents and whilst wearing a seatbelt does not ensure complete immunity from injury occurring, it is certainly safer than not wearing one.

Try to implement these simple tips for preventing spinal injuries and you should keep yourself and your family a lot safer.