Last Updated on March 19, 2023 by Nurse Vicky
Surprising Facts About the Spinal Cord
The spinal cord is an essential part of the human body that plays a vital role in our everyday lives.b It is the primary pathway that carries messages from the brain to different parts of the body, allowing us to move and feel. However, despite its importance, most people do not know much about the spinal cord. In this article, we will explore five surprising facts about the spinal cord that will leave you amazed.
What is the spinal cord?
The spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular bundle of nerves that runs from the base of the brain to the lower back. It is part of the central nervous system, along with the brain, and it serves as the primary pathway for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae, which are the bones that make up the spinal column.
The spinal cord can repair itself
One surprising fact about the spinal cord is that it has the ability to repair itself to a certain extent. When the spinal cord is injured, the nerve cells that are damaged do not regenerate, but the surviving nerve cells can create new connections to compensate for the loss.
This process is known as neuroplasticity. With the help of physical therapy and rehabilitation, people with spinal cord injuries can often learn to compensate for their lost function and improve their quality of life.
The spinal cord has five regions
Another surprising fact about the spinal cord is that it is divided into five regions, each of which serves a different function. These regions are the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal regions. The cervical region is located in the neck and is responsible for controlling the arms, hands, and neck.
The thoracic region is located in the upper back and controls the chest muscles and some of the abdominal muscles. The lumbar region is located in the lower back and controls the legs and hips. The sacral region is located in the pelvis and controls the bladder, bowel, and sexual function. Finally, the coccygeal region is located at the very bottom of the spinal cord and controls the tailbone.
The spinal cord is responsible for reflexes
When you touch something hot, your hand automatically jerks back to avoid getting burned. This reflex action is controlled by the spinal cord. The spinal cord has reflex arcs that allow it to respond quickly to stimuli without waiting for instructions from the brain. This is important for survival because it allows us to react quickly to danger.
Spinal cord injuries can cause a wide range of symptoms
Spinal cord injuries can have a wide range of symptoms, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Injuries to the cervical region can cause paralysis of the arms, legs, and torso, as well as difficulty breathing. Injuries to the thoracic region can cause paralysis of the legs and torso, as well as loss of bowel and bladder control. Injuries to the lumbar and sacral regions can cause paralysis of the legs and hips, as well as loss of bowel and bladder control and sexual dysfunction.
The spinal cord can be affected by diseases
Many diseases can affect the spinal cord, including multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and spinal muscular atrophy. These diseases can cause a wide range of symptoms, including weakness, spasticity, and loss of coordination. Some diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, can also cause lesions on the spinal cord that can interfere with its function.
Spinal cord injuries are common
Spinal cord injuries are more common than most people think. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are approximately 17,810 new cases of spinal cord injuries in the United States each year. The majority of these injuries are caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, and sports injuries. Spinal cord injuries can have a significant impact on a person’s life, and they often require long-term medical care and rehabilitation.
Can a person survive without a spinal cord?
A: No, a person cannot survive without a spinal cord. The spinal cord is an essential part of the central nervous system and is responsible for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Without a spinal cord, a person would be unable to move or feel anything below the neck.
Can a spinal cord injury be reversed?
Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries cannot be reversed. Once the nerve cells in the spinal cord are damaged, they do not regenerate. However, with the help of physical therapy and rehabilitation, people with spinal cord injuries can often learn to compensate for their lost function and improve their quality of life.
How is a spinal cord injury diagnosed?
A spinal cord injury is typically diagnosed with a combination of physical examination and diagnostic imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans. These tests can help doctors determine the location and severity of the injury.
How are spinal cord injuries treated?
Treatment for spinal cord injuries typically involves a combination of medical care, rehabilitation, and physical therapy. The goal of treatment is to help the person regain as much function as possible and improve their quality of life. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may involve surgery, medication, and assistive devices such as wheelchairs.
Can a spinal cord injury cause paralysis?
A: Yes, a spinal cord injury can cause paralysis, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Injuries to the cervical region can cause paralysis of the arms, legs, and torso, while injuries to the thoracic, lumbar, and sacral regions can cause paralysis of the legs and hips.
What are the risk factors for spinal cord injuries?
The risk factors for spinal cord injuries include participating in contact sports, such as football or rugby, engaging in high-risk activities such as skydiving or bungee jumping, and driving or riding in a motor vehicle without wearing a seatbelt. Men are also more likely than women to experience a spinal cord injury.
How can spinal cord injuries be prevented?
Spinal cord injuries can be prevented by taking certain precautions, such as wearing a seatbelt while driving or riding in a car, wearing appropriate safety gear while participating in sports, and avoiding high-risk activities such as diving into shallow water.
Additionally, it is important to maintain good posture and exercise regularly to keep the muscles supporting the spine strong and healthy.
The spinal cord is a fascinating and essential part of the human body, and it plays a vital role in our everyday lives. Despite its importance, many people are unaware of the spinal cord’s functions and the impact that spinal cord injuries can have. By understanding these five surprising facts about the spinal cord, we can gain a deeper appreciation of this critical part of our anatomy and take steps to protect ourselves from injury.