Along with the brain, the spinal cord makes up the central nervous system, which is responsible for many of the sensations you feel. This structure, which houses numerous essential nerves, is designed to be resilient thanks to added protection from vertebrae and attached muscles and other soft tissues. However, the spinal cord isn’t indestructible. While it’s possible for anyone to sustain a spinal cord injury (SCI) under the right circumstances, certain factors increase the risk of experiencing such injuries. The trusted Los Angeles spine surgeons at The Spine Institute have compiled a list detailing a few of these common factors.
Over time, the bones of the spine become less dense, and the discs that support the spine also become less spongy due to a natural loss of hydration, which increases the risk of spinal fractures among older individuals. However, research suggests people between 16 and 30 years old are at an even greater risk of experiencing SCIs. Part of the reason may be because younger people are more likely to be involved in contact sports or engage in other activities that could result in an SCI. Risks within this age group can be minimized by:
- Being cautious when driving
- Wearing seatbelts correctly
- Practicing proper form and technique when playing sports
- Wearing appropriate and well-fitting protective gear
2. Being Male
It’s possible for anyone of any age or sex to have an injured spinal cord. Statistically, about 80 percent of the SCIs that occur in the United States happen to men. Men may be at higher risk for SCIs than females because they are more likely to be involved in contact sports and other activities where the spine is directly impacted. Some men are also less likely to take precautions such as wearing a helmet or using a seat belt.
3. Reckless Behavior
Any behaviors or activities that place the spine in awkward positions or increase the risk of sustaining a direct impact also increase the odds of experiencing an SCI. Such actions may include working from high places without a harness or other protective equipment, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, or diving into a pool without knowing the water depth. It may seem like a waste of time to be overly cautious sometimes. However, taking steps such as wearing a helmet even when going a short distance could mean the difference between a few minor aches and pains and a serious SCI that leaves you partially or fully paralyzed.
4. Underlying Health Issues
Some preexisting health issues can make the spine more susceptible to damage from an unexpected impact, jolt, or fall. For instance, osteoporosis can weaken the bones and joints of the spine to the point where even a minor fall injures the spinal cord. The spinal cord and spine may also be affected by:
- Diabetes and chronic high blood pressure*
- Weakened spinal discs
- Issues related to previous spine surgeries
These conditions could also make it difficult to heal following a spinal cord injury
Regardless of whether or not you are affected by any of the risk factors mentioned here, there are smart ways to protect your backbone from possible injuries. For example, if your job involves regular stress on certain parts of your spine, it might be helpful to wear a lumbar support belt or back brace. It also wouldn’t hurt to increase your intake of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and other nutrients that play an important role in keeping the bones, joints, discs, and other parts of the spine healthy.
Different spinal injuries and conditions may require different types of minimally invasive surgical procedures, from vertebroplasty to ACDF surgery. Los Angeles patients who want to find relief for their spine pain should reach out to The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757.