Spinal Cord Injury Effects on the Human Body Maegan A. Puzas Biology Department, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, U.S.A.
Cervical Nerves (C1 to C8) • Nerves of the upper spine • Innervates the back of the head, neck, arms, and diaphragm • Injury to this region paralyzes the respiratory muscles and often fatal for the patient • Injury could lead to an increased risk of stroke • Non-fatal injury results in risk of cardiovascular diseases
Thoracic Nerves (T1 to T12) • Next region of nerves going down the spine • Innervates the chest, back muscles, and abdomen • Injury can cause loss of feeling below the groin area • Injury between T5 and T8 region can cause leg and lower trunk paralysis and loss of feeling in rib cage • Can lead to severe respiratory effects like decreased chest expansion and weak diaphragm movement leading to breathing problems
Lumbar Nerves (L1 to L5) • Third nerve region going down the spine, which tapers to form the conus medullaris • Innervates the lower portion of the abdomen, back, buttocks, and external genetalia • Injury can cause leg weakness • Injury can also lead to reproductive effects in terms of fertility and function of the organs
Sacral Nerves (S1 to S5) • Lowest portion of the spine, known as the cauda equina • Innervates the remainder of the genitals, the thighs, the lower legs, the anus, and the feet • Injury can cause leg weakness and numbness and a loss of bladder and bowel control and perineal numbness, known as cauda equina syndrome • Less severe injuries could include bowel or gastrointestinal problems
Reference • Gibson, K. Caring for a patient who lives with a spinal cord. Nursing 2003; 33(7): 36-41. • INOVA Spine Institute. 2011. 25 November 2011. <http://www.inovaspine.org/spine-conditions>