What is a spinal cord contusion?
A spinal cord contusion occurs when the spinal cord itself is bruised, often causing inflammation and bleeding from delicate blood vessels near the injury site. The swelling from a contusion can disrupt nerve impulses that travel from the brain to the rest of the body resulting in numbness or tingling in the extremities. The severity, and location of symptoms depends on the level of injury. Swelling from the contusion may also cause compression on the spinal cord which can be depicted in a wide range of physical symptoms.
- Pain, stiffness in the neck, mid-back, or lower back
- Burning pain that spreads to the arms, buttocks, or down into the legs
- Numbness, cramping, or weakness in the extremities
- Loss of sensation in the feet
- Trouble with hand coordination
- “Foot drop,” weakness in a foot that causes a limp/gait disturbance
- Loss of sexual ability
Since the spinal cord is comprised of an intricate highway of neural pathways, contusions and compression can lead to permanent paralysis. MRI scans and other forms of high teach radiology can identify the source and extent of the injury so that the appropriate intervention can follow.
Typically these injuries are often a result of a high speed motor vehicle accident however more and more athletes especially in football and hockey have sustained spinal cord injuries of varying degrees.