Exploring the Most Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

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Exploring the Most Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

The health of your spinal cord is important to your overall wellbeing, as it plays a vital role in enabling your body to function properly. But what happens when this important part of the body is injured due to an accident? The aftermath can be life-changing, both for the individual and their loved ones.

Here, JMW sheds light on the most common causes of spinal cord injuries. Our focus is on prevention and raising awareness so that you can take informed steps to protect yourself and others. Understanding these risks is the first line of defence in reducing the incidence of spinal cord injuries.

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury refers to any damage to the spinal cord itself or the nerves at the end of the spinal canal. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs down the middle of your back and transmits signals between your brain and the rest of your body. An injury to this area can disrupt these signals, affecting your ability to move or feel sensations.

Spinal cord injuries can vary in severity. In some cases, the injury may lead to temporary issues, while in other cases, it can result in permanent changes like paralysis. The impact of a spinal cord injury can be far-reaching, affecting not just your physical health but also your emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Common Causes of Traumatic Spinal Cord Injuries

A traumatic spinal cord injury is one that occurs due to an accident. Here are some of the main causes:


According to national statistics, falls are the leading cause of spinal cord injury, particularly among older adults.  Tripping over a hazard, slipping on wet or uneven surface, or falling from height can all lead to spinal cord injury. 

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car crashes and motorcycle accidents are another major cause. Even with improved safety measures like seat belts and airbags, the force of a collision can cause serious spinal cord injuries.

Contact sports such as rugby and football carry a risk of spinal cord injury, asdo sports like horse riding, cycling and skiing. High-impact or extreme sports can also have the potential to cause serious injury if proper safety guidelines are not followed.

How to Prevent Spinal Cord Injuries

When it comes to preventing spinal cord injuries, awareness and education are key. Here, we take a look at the various common places where spinal cord injuries can take place. 

In the Car

Despite advanced safety measures like airbags and crumple zones, motor vehicle accidents remain one of the leading causes of traumatic spinal cord injuries. Therefore, it's important to always wear a seat belt, and if you have children, make sure they're in appropriate car seats based on their age, height and weight. Equally important is avoiding distractions while driving; this includes not using your mobile phone, eating or engaging in any other activities that can divert your attention from the road.

In Sports and Recreational Activities

Sports-related incidents are another cause of spinal cord injuries, particularly in contact sports like rugby or football. Whether you're a professional athlete or enjoy sports recreationally, following safety guidelines is essential. This includes wearing all the recommended safety gear such as helmets, neck and back protectors and other protective equipment. Moreover, listening to coaches and instructors, and adhering to the rules of the sport, can drastically reduce the risk of injury.

When participating in any sport, understanding the limitations of your skills and experience and operating within your ability can help prevent accidents that could result in serious spinal cord injury.  

Safety in the Workplace

Workplaces, especially those in sectors like construction, manufacturing and logistics, can be risky environments for spinal cord injuries. Maintaining a culture of safety is paramount. This entails rigorous safety training, consistent use of protective gear, and regular risk assessments. Employers should ensure that all safety protocols are not only in place but are also consistently followed. For employees, being vigilant and adhering to safety guidelines can safeguard against many potential hazards.

At Home

Accidents in your own home and garden can be a cause of spinal cord injury. If you have stairs, ensure there are no tripping hazards near the top of the stairs, including loose carpets and rugs. Make sure stairs have a bannister or handrail fitted to aid ascent and decent. Keep walkways clear, and ensure outdoor paths are well maintained and cleaned to avoid falls.  

Handing an Injury and Support

Coming to terms with a spinal cord injury is an emotionally, physically and psychologically challenging experience, not just for the individual affected but also for their families and friends. However, with a multi-faceted approach that integrates medical, emotional and social support, rebuilding a life after spinal cord injury to be as fulfilled as before is wholly possible.

Multidisciplinary Healthcare Teams

Following stabilisation treatment,  rehabilitation following a spinal cord injury often involves a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals: 

  • Physiotherapists work to improve mobility and strength
  • Occupational therapists assist in adapting to new ways of performing daily tasks
  • Specialist continence nurses will help manage bladder and bowel
  • Psychologists help manage the emotional toll
  • Nutritional experts may also be involved to provide diet plans that facilitate overall wellbeing 

The aim is to offer a holistic healthcare regimen that extends far beyond simple medical treatment.

The Role of Peer Support

Peer support from individuals, or within groups, both in person and online, can provide an insight into living with a spinal cord injury. Listening to others share their experiences, challenges and triumphs offers a unique form of emotional support. It also serves as a platform for exchanging tips on managing daily life, from mobility issues to navigating social and professional obligations. The value of talking to someone who 'gets it' should never be underestimated. Our page on the support available, and how to access it can be found here

Support from Family and Friends

Emotional support from family and friends is irreplaceable. They not only provide the day-to-day assistance that is often required but also offer a sense of normalcy and emotional stability. Simple acts, like spending time together, can have a profound impact on mental well-being.

Community Resources and Social Services

Various community resources can be invaluable in the coping process. These may include specialised transport services, home care facilities, or even assistance for dealing with insurance and benefits. Local councils and social services can guide individuals to the resources best suited for their needs.

Engaging in Meaningful Activities

Maintaining a sense of purpose can be a strong coping mechanism. This could mean returning to work in a modified role, taking up new hobbies that are manageable with the injury, or even volunteering. These activities provide a focus beyond the immediate challenges and contribute to a more rounded sense of self.

Financial Planning and Assistance

Spinal cord injuries often bring unanticipated financial burdens, from medical costs to modifications needed in the home. Financial advisors specialising in healthcare issues can help plan for these needs. Many governments offer disability benefits, and various charitable organisations provide financial aid and resources specifically geared towards people with spinal cord injuries.

Adaptability and Resilience

A spinal cord injury often necessitates substantial changes to one's lifestyle, therefore the ability to adapt is vital. Psychological support and counselling can help cultivate this resilience, teaching coping strategies that equip individuals to face the challenges and uncertainties ahead.

Through a blend of professional healthcare, emotional support and community resources, coping with a spinal cord injury becomes a shared journey rather than a solitary struggle. The aim is to lead a fulfilling life, where the injury is a part of one's identity but not the defining aspect.

Talk to Us

If you've sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury in an accident that wasn't your fault, call our team on 0345 872 6666 or fill in our online contact form and someone will get back to you to discuss your case.

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