What causes spinal cord injuries (SCIs)?

Traumatic spinal cord injuries

The causes of SCIs can be put into two groups: traumatic and non-traumatic. The most common cause of traumatic injury in the United States is motor vehicle accidents (MVAs). MVAs cause 44 out of 100 of all SCIs.

Some traumatic spinal cord injuries are:

Ischemia
Decreased blood flow to the spinal cord
Contusion
Bruising of the spinal cord
Fractures
Broken bones (vertebrae)
Dislocation
Displaced or misaligned vertebrae

Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries

Non-traumatic injuries are caused by diseases that affect the bones, nerves, or spinal cord.

Some non-traumatic spinal cord injuries are:

  • Degeneration of bone (vertebrae)
  • Bone spurs
  • Infections or tumors in the spine
  • Diseases of the spinal cord such as: multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Guillain-Barré syndrome, and transverse myelitis
Last reviewed: 
March 2018

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