Some basic facts about spine injury

The human spine is a complex collection of bones, nerves and soft tissue that allows us to stand, move about and perform daily tasks, both at home and on the job. And while many Michigan residents may not know the exact name for every part of the spine, they are well aware of how a spinal injury on the job caused either by trauma or repetitive stress can be devastating to a worker. So here are some general facts about this type of injury as well as some of the treatments available.

A spinal cord injury can interfere with a nerve’s ability to transmit information to and from the brain. Spinal cord injuries can be classified as either complete or incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury means the person has no feeling or ability to move below the area where the injury occurred. An incomplete spinal cord injury means that the spinal cord still has some ability to transmit messages to and from the brain and that the injured person still has some motor function. A lot of injuries to the spine don’t completely destroy it, but may break or squeeze the vertebrae which in turn damage the nerves that carry signals to and from the spine to the brain.

Good emergency care for people with spinal cord injuries can help reduce the damage to the nerves, but may not be able to eliminate it altogether. Steroids such as methylprednisolone have shown an ability to reduce the amount of damage to a spine’s nerve cells if it can be given within eight hours of the injury. Electrical stimulation of damaged nerves may also help restore limited function to spinal cord injury victims.

Sometimes surgery can also help. Spinal cord surgery may involve trying to relieve the compression of the vertebrae on the surrounding tissue. But even with all the tools available to modern medicine, many people who suffer a spinal cord injury will have serious obstacles and face years of intensive therapy. When the injury is suffered on the job, it is critical to pursue workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses, wage loss and disability.

Source:, “Spinal cord injury information page“, Accessed May 18, 2015