What is the Spinal Cord and What Causes a Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord is a long, thin tubular bundle of nervous tissue and support cells which extend from the brain down the middle of the back. It is surrounded and protected by the bony vertebral column. The brain and the spinal cord together make up the central nervous system. The spinal cord carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body. These messages allow you to move and to feel touch, among other things. A spinal cord injury stops the flow of messages below the site of the injury. The closer the injury is to the brain, the more the body is affected.

What Causes a Spinal Cord Injury?

In addition to disease, a spinal cord injury commonly occurs as the result of trauma caused by a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a slip and fall accident, or a child injury.

What Exactly is a Herniated Lumbar Disc?

The lower spine has a series of vertebra through which the spinal cord runs. Each vertebra is separated by a disc which cushions the vertebra and promotes comfortable movement of the disc as we bend. Nerves controlling muscle function for the lower body branch off the spinal cord and pass through spaces in the vertebra as they connect to various muscles. The discs separating the vertebra are made up of a jelly-like center disc material encased in a strong fibrous like covering. If the disc covering is damaged, it allows the disc material to partially escape. When that happens, the disc material often comes into contact with an adjacent nerve root coming off the spinal cord. It may also touch or impinge upon the spinal cord itself. Contact with these nerves causes pain which manifests itself in many different ways. It is the escape of the disc material from within a lumbar disc which is being described as a “herniated” lumbar disc.

Radiologists distinguish how much the disc material is pushing out of the disc with terms such as disc bulge (the least amount), disc protrusion, disc herniation and frank herniation (total escape of the material.) These conditions may be caused by the wear and tear process of disc degeneration as we age, an injury from trauma, or from a combination of the two.

What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?

Low back pain is the initial symptom for most people with a herniated disc. The pain may last for a few days, then improve. Many times this is followed by the eventual onset of additional symptoms such as numbness, weakness and leg pain. This leg pain typically involves the leg below the knee, and foot and ankle. It is described as moving from the back or buttock down the leg into the foot. Symptoms may be one or all of the following: back pain, leg and/or foot pain (sciatica), weakness in the leg and/or foot, numbness in the leg and/or foot.

Jim Dodson
A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.