Spinal Cord Injury
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    Spinal cord injuries usually begin with a blow that fractures or dislocates your vertebrae, the bone disks that make up your spine. Most injuries don't sever your spinal cord. Instead, they cause damage when pieces of vertebrae tear into cord tissue or press down on the nerve parts that carry signals. In a complete spinal cord injury, the cord can't relay messages below the level of the injury. As a result, you are paralyzed below the level of injury. In an incomplete injury, you have some movement and sensation below the injury.

    A spinal cord injury is a medical emergency. Immediate treatment can reduce long-term effects. Later treatment usually includes medicine and rehabilitation therapy.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Symptoms and Signs

Spinal cord injury symptoms depend on two factors:

  • The location of the injury. In general, injuries that are higher in your spinal cord produce more paralysis. For example, a spinal cord injury at the neck level may cause paralysis in both arms and legs and make it impossible to breathe without a respirator, while a lower injury may affect only your legs and lower parts of your body.

  • The severity of the injury. Spinal cord injuries are classified as partial or complete, depending on how much of the cord width is damaged.

        In a partial spinal cord injury, which may also be called an incomplete injury, the spinal cord is able to convey some messages to or from your brain. So people with partial spinal cord injury retain some sensation and possibly some motor function below the affected area.

        A complete spinal cord injury is defined by total or near-total loss of motor function and sensation below the area of injury. However, even in a complete injury, the spinal cord is almost never completely cut in half. Doctors use the term "complete" to describe a large amount of damage to the spinal cord. It's a key distinction because many people with partial spinal cord injuries are able to experience significant recovery, while those with complete injuries are not.


    Spinal cord injuries of any kind may result in one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Pain or an intense stinging sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers in your spinal cord

  • Loss of movement

  • Loss of sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold and touch

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

  • Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms

  • Changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity and fertility

  • Difficulty breathing, coughing or clearing secretions from your lungs

    Emergency signs and symptoms
    Emergency signs and symptoms of spinal cord injury after a head injury or accident may include:

  • Fading in and out of consciousness

  • Extreme back pain or pressure in your neck, head or back

  • Weakness, incoordination or paralysis in any part of your body

  • Numbness, tingling or loss of sensation in your hands, fingers, feet or toes

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

  • Difficulty with balance and walking

  • Impaired breathing after injury

  • An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back



Your brain and central nervous system
T    ogether, your spinal cord and your brain make up your central nervous system, which controls most of the functions of your body. Your spinal cord runs approximately 15 to 17 inches from the base of your brain to your waist and is composed of long nerve fibers that carry messages to and from your brain.

    These nerve fibers feed into nerve roots that emerge between your vertebrae the 33 bones that surround your spinal cord and make up your backbone. There, the nerve fibers organize into peripheral nerves that extend to the rest of your body.

Injury may be traumatic or nontraumatic
A traumatic spinal cord injury may stem from a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of your vertebrae. It may also result from a gunshot or knife wound that penetrates and cuts your spinal cord. Additional damage usually occurs over days or weeks because of bleeding, swelling, inflammation and fluid accumulation in and around your spinal cord.

    Nontraumatic spinal cord injury may be caused by arthritis, cancer, blood vessel problems or bleeding, inflammation or infections, or disk degeneration of the spine.


Damage to nerve fibers
Whether the cause is traumatic or nontraumatic, the damage affects the nerve fibers passing through the injured area and may impair part or all of your corresponding muscles and nerves below the injury site. Spinal injuries occur most frequently in the neck (cervical) and lower back (thoracic and lumbar) areas. A thoracic or lumbar injury can affect leg, bowel and bladder control, and sexual function. A cervical injury may affect breathing as well as movements of your upper and lower limbs.

    The spinal cord ends at the lower border of the first vertebra in your lower back known as a lumbar vertebra. So injuries below this vertebra actually don't involve the spinal cord. However, an injury to this part of your back or pelvis may damage nerve roots in the area and may cause some loss of function in the legs, as well as difficulty with bowel and bladder control and sexual function.

Common causes of spinal cord injury
    The most common causes of spinal cord injury in the United States are:

  • Motor vehicle accidents. Auto and motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for almost 50 percent of new spinal cord injuries each year.

  • Acts of violence. About 15 percent of spinal cord injuries result from violent encounters, often involving gunshot and knife wounds.

  • Falls. Spinal cord injury after age 65 is most often caused by a fall. Overall, falls make up approximately 22 percent of spinal cord injuries.

  • Sports and recreation injuries. Athletic activities such as impact sports and diving in shallow water cause about 8 percent of spinal cord injuries.

  • Diseases. Cancer, infections, arthritis and inflammation of the spinal cord also cause spinal cord injuries each year.


Acupuncture Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries

    The mechanism of acupuncture treatment of spinal cord injuries includes 1)stimulation of the peripheral nerve ending (receptors) so to enhance the communications between the effectors and central nervous system provided there is still connection, 2) improvement of circulation and elimination of blood congestion and qi stagnation, 3) facilitation of tissue healing around the injured spot, 4) induction of the repair of damaged nervous tissue.

    Classical acupuncture treatment of spinal cord injuries consists of two parts: 1) systemic regulations by stimulating acupoints on the arms and legs which are the origins of the energy pathways--meridians, 2) spinal cord awaking process, that is to stimulate the 17 pairs of acupoints along the sides of the spinal column where the vertebral nerve roots emerge. Those 17 pairs of acupuncture are called Hua Tuo Spinal Points, named after the famous Chinese medicine doctor( 145-208). The acupoints are used to treat spinal cord injuries and internal conditions as well. 

    Electrical impulse stimulations have modernly been used in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Experimental Studies of electro-acupuncture in treating SCI show that it can enhance NGFmRNA expression in spinal cord tissue, protect the intactness of nerve tissue and accelerate the repair of spinal cord. 

    Dr. Wang and his professor successfully treated a patient of severe spinal cord injury caused by a falling beam on his lumbar area causing vertebral fractures and nerve damages. The patient lost his sensory and motor functions for almost a year after the accident. He received acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment for a year and half before he started to walk and then ride a bicycle. 

    Dr. Wang has also treated many patients with infectious polyneuritis (Guillain-Barre syndrome) with acupuncture and herbal medicine when he worked in Tianjin Medical University).

    He always focuses on the diagnosis, the analysis of the patient's real time condition ( differentiation of symptoms), and pays special attention to the systemic treatment rather than the "local" problem. He believes that prompt treatment with adequate amount of acupuncture stimulation is crucial in saving the spinal cord functions.