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What are common causes of spinal cord injuries?

Common causes of spinal cord injury include car accidents and falls. The spinal cord might be squashed by something else in the body that's not supposed to be there, like blood or a tumor. Or it could be that the spinal cord itself becomes swollen and stops working so well. This is called inflammation of the spinal cord, and it can happen with some medical conditions, but it's rare. Some children are born with spinal cord problems. The damage can happen slowly over time, or suddenly. It all depends on the source.

Dr. Luke Macyszyn, MD
Neurosurgeon

Motor vehicle accidents, falls, and gun violence are the most common causes of spinal cord injury in the United States.

Spinal cord injury leads to a range of mobility impairments. Of the cases of spinal cord injury in the United States, car accidents are the most common cause. This is followed by falls, violence (such as gunshot wounds), and sports. It is reported in some surveys that a significant percentage of spinal cord injuries are work-related. Because spinal trauma tends to result from very physical, violent activity, males account for over 80 percent of spinal cord injuries.

There are many causes of spinal cord injuries, including trauma from war injuries caused by falls, gunshots, blasts, explosions and crashes. Diving accidents commonly result in spinal cord injuries, especially in young adults. Tumors can cause spinal cord injuries, as can congenital disorders such as spina bifida. Other causes of spinal cord injuries include multiple sclerosis, a demyelinative disease, and vascular malformations, including aneurysms. Sometimes a stroke (brain attack) results in a spinal cord injury, while rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) can increase the chance of injury when there is trauma to the spine. While some spinal cord injuries lead to recovery, other injuries are much more serious and result in permanent paralysis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.