The spinal cord contains the nerves that carry messages between your brain and body. The cord passes through your neck and back. A spinal cord injury is very serious because it can cause loss of movement (paralysis) below the site of the injury.
A spinal cord injury may be caused by:
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury may include:
Never move anyone who you think may have a spinal injury, unless it is absolutely necessary. For example, if you need to get the person out of a burning car, or help them to breathe.
Keep the person absolutely still and safe until medical help arrives.
If the person is not alert or responding to you:
Do not roll the person over unless the person is vomiting or choking on blood, or you need to check for breathing. If you need to roll the person over:
Call your local emergency number (such as 911) if you think someone has a spinal cord injury. Do not move the person unless there is urgent danger.
The following may lower your risk of spinal injury:
Spinal cord injury, SCI
Hockberger RS, Kaji AH, Newton E. Spinal injuries. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 40.
Torg JS. Cervical Spine Injuries: 1. Cervical spine injuries in the adult. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 16, section A.
Pizzutillo PD, Herman MJ. Cervical spine injuries: 2. Cervical spine injuries in the child. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 16, section A.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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