Spinal Cord Injuries Signs, Symptoms & Effects

At TrustPoint Hospital we believe education is an important first step in the effort to heal from TBI & spinal cord injuries. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of TBI & spinal cord injuries can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding TBI & Spinal Cord Injury

Learn about TBI & Spinal Cord Injury

Traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries can cause monumental pain and strife in the lives of those afflicted, hindering their abilities to live fulfilling lives.

Traumatic brain injury occurs when an individual suffers from a sudden trauma that leads to damage within the brain. These individuals may sustain a jolt, bump, or blow to the head that disrupts the brain’s ability to function normally. The severity of traumatic brain injuries, also referred to as TBI, can range anywhere from mild to moderate to severe. The most common types of TBI are mild and are known as concussions.

Spinal cord injuries occur when an injury disrupts the signals that the spine normally carries back and forth between the body and the brain. Typically, a spinal cord injury begins when there is some trauma that causes the vertebrae, or bone disks of the spine, to dislocate or become fractured. While these types of injuries typically do not actually cut through the spinal cord entirely, they can cause pieces of the vertebrae to rip into cord tissue or to apply pressure to nerves.

While the presence of either type of injury can minimize an individual’s ability to function independently, or elicit emotional and psychological disturbances, there are treatment options available that can help minimize these effects, reduce them completely, or help sufferers learn to manage skills of daily living.


Statistics on TBI & Spinal Cord Injury

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 30% of deaths that result from injury are due to traumatic brain injury. The CDC also reports that an estimated 138 people die from injuries that include traumatic brain injury every day in the United States alone.

In regards to the prevalence of spinal cord injuries, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) reports that, as of 2016, approximately 282,000 individuals in the U.S. are suffering from spinal cord injuries. Furthermore, an estimated 17,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries are said to occur each year.

Causes and Risk Factors for Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injuries

There are a number of factors that can elicit traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injuries. Examples of such factors include the following:

The risk factors associated with traumatic brain injury can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Age (Those who are said to be most at risk for suffering from traumatic brain injury are newborn infants, children ages 4 and under, young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, and older adults ages 75 and older.)
  • Falling
  • Car, motorcycle, or bicycle accidents
  • Violence (e.g. domestic violence, child abuse, gunshot wounds, etc.)
  • Combat injuries
  • Sports injuries

The risk factors associated with spinal cord injuries can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Being male (Studies have shown that only an estimated 20% of spinal cord injuries affect women.)
  • Age (Individuals between the ages of 16 and 30, or ages 65 and older are said to be at a heightened risk for suffering from spinal cord injuries.)
  • Having a bone disorder, such as osteoporosis
  • Having a joint disorder, such as arthritis
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors (e.g. playing sports without wearing appropriate safety gear, diving into shallow water, etc.)
  • Experiencing a motor vehicle accident
  • Abuse of alcohol
  • Violence (namely gunshot or knife wounds)
  • Falling

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injuries

The signs and symptoms that will present in an individual who is suffering from TBI or spinal cord injury will vary depending on the severity of the injury. Examples of possible symptoms that may be exhibited include, but are not limited to, the following:

Symptoms of traumatic brain injury:

  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Problems sustaining one’s balance
  • Lethargy / loss of energy
  • Confusion
  • Pupil dilation
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of coordination
  • Weakness or numbness in extremities
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness

Symptoms of spinal cord injury:

  • Loss of bladder control
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Inability to feel heat, cold, and/or touch
  • Loss of sensation, numbness, or tingling in the fingers, hands, toes, and/or feet
  • Impaired breathing
  • Difficulty maintaining balance
  • Difficulty walking
  • Extreme back pain or pressure in the back, head, and/or neck
  • Exaggerated reflexes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Excessive coughing or mucus secretions
  • Oddly twisted or positioned back and/or neck

Effects of TBI & Spinal Cord Injury

Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injuries

There are some effective forms of treatment for traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries that can reduce the negative effects that such traumas elicit. However, in some cases, persistent detrimental effects can plague the lives of individuals. However, participating in appropriate rehabilitation efforts can help minimize these deficits. Examples of effects that can result from TBI or spinal cord injury can include, but are not limited to, the following:

Effects of traumatic brain injury:

  • Impaired vision
  • Impaired hearing
  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired thinking processes
  • Impaired emotional functioning
  • Changes in personality

Effects of spinal cord injury:

  • Permanent changes in strength
  • Permanent changes in bodily sensations
  • Permanent changes in other types of bodily functions
  • Motor dysfunction / inability to control limbs
  • Paralysis

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Conditions and Disorders

When an individual suffers a traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury, he or she is at an increased risk for suffering from co-occurring medical and psychiatric conditions. Additionally, individuals may suffer from both TBI and a spinal cord injury simultaneously. Examples of other co-occurring conditions can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Chronic pain

I would recommend this facility to everyone. Everybody that worked here from administration to the nice cleaning ladies were very friendly. The staff at Trustpoint Hospital respected me. It is obvious they enjoy what they do. They treat you like a person, rather than a job. They all seem sincere and caring. They really listen to you and care how your body feels during your therapy. They have taught me a lot. I have been through a total of 3 back surgeries, and I would come back again, with no hesitation.

– Mary, Murfreesboro, TN
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