What does the spinal cord do?
Our nervous system works by transmitting electrical signals between different parts of the body. This is done through long cells that act like signal cables, called neurons, often bundled together as nerves. Nerves connect the processing part of our brain to various sensors that tell our brain about our environment. Based on these inputs, your brain decides what to do and sends the signal through nerves to the parts that allow us or our body to act - our muscles or glands. There is also a completely separate nervous system that helps to tweak body functions as per the context. This is called the autonomous nervous system.
All nerves that connect various parts of our body are consolidated into bundles that run to the brain through the inside of your backbone, together called the spinal cord. The nerves from each level of your body join the spinal cord separately through spaces between the parts of the backbone called inter-vertebral spaces.
It serves as the main cable connecting your brain and the body. It houses nerves conducting sensory functions, motor functions, and autonomous functions, packed together in a tight space.
How can the spinal cord get injured?
Are back injury and spinal cord injury the same?
Back injury affects the bones or muscles in the back but does not affect the spinal cord. Spinal cord injury may co-exist with a back injury in cases of accidents etc. In the case of spinal cord injury, the symptoms are quite widespread and may include:
How can you identify a spinal cord injury?
Since spinal cord injury is a serious condition that has complications, it is important to keep the possibility in mind when you come across a serious injury or accident. Anybody who has been through a serious injury should be checked by a medical professional for any signs of spinal cord injury. This is because in many cases, the injury is not very obvious immediately and can get complicated if it goes unnoticed. It is better to suspect a spinal cord injury and take precautions until it is evaluated by medical personnel.
The usual signs and symptoms immediately after an accident MAY include:
What can you do if you suspect someone may have a spinal cord injury?
As discussed above, anticipate the person may have a serious spinal cord injury until a medical professional says otherwise after examination and tests. It is important to keep the following and spread this information to people around you so that your actions to help the person do not end up causing them further damage or paralysis.