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Spinal injuries: Identifying the extent of the injury's essential

Spinal cord injuries can vary. Although people often think of spinal injuries as those that cause paralysis, the reality is that no two injuries are exactly alike. Someone who has suffered a blow to their spinal column and damage to the spinal cord might have paralysis from that point down, or they may have only a touch of feeling. Some people will have nerve pain, and others will feel everything but also have weakness.

It is important for those who have suffered a back injury to seek medical care and to have a full medical exam. This exam, along with the proper testing, can help medical providers understand the extent of the individual's back injuries and give them the best data on how to provide assistance to that person.

What kinds of tests do you need for the diagnosis of a spinal cord injury?

There are a few different tests that can be done to diagnose spinal injuries. A few things your provider may do or order include:

  • X-rays, which can reveal fractures, vertebral problems and other issues in the spinal cord
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which produces computer-generated images that show blood clots, masses and herniated disks
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans, which show cross-sectional images that define closely the disks, bones and other problems in the spine. CT scans show a more precise image of what might have previously been found on an X-ray.

Neurological exams may also be performed, though they usually don't take place until the swelling in the spinal cord has subsided. Once the swelling subsides, it's possible for the medical provider to see the completeness of the injury and identify a plan for recovery.

Our site has more on spinal injuries and what you can do if you've suffered injuries in a crash.

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