Spinal Cord Injury
The level of spinal cord injury is determined by which vertebrae have been injured
“Spinal cord injury” (SCI) refers to any injury of the neural elements within the spinal cord. SCI can occur from either trauma or disease to the vertebral column or the spinal cord itself. Generally, most spinal cord injuries are the result of trauma to the vertebral column. These injuries can affect the spinal cord’s ability to send and receive messages from the brain to the body systems.
33 individual vertebrae called the vertebrae column or the spinal column, or the backbone surround the spinal cord. The vertebrae have different names depending on their location. 7 cervical vertebrae located in the neck. 12 thoracic vertebrae in the upper back. 5 lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. 5 fused sacral vertebrae in the hip area and 4 fused vertebrae in the coccyx (tailbone).
The nerves that lie within the spinal cord are upper motor neurons (UMNs). Their function is to carry the messages back and forth from the brain to the spinal nerves along the spinal tract.
The nerves that branch out from the spinal cord to the other parts of the body are lower motor neurons (LMNs). These nerves exit and enter at each vertebral level and communicate with specific areas of the body. For example, the sensory portions of the LMN carry messages about sensation from the skin and other body parts and organs to the brain. The motor portions of the LMN send messages from the brain to the various body parts to initiate actions such as muscle movement.