Causes of a Spinal Cord Injury

Traumatic type injuries are not the only causes of a spinal cord-related disorder.

Written by Edward C. Benzel, MD

Spinal cord injury (SCI) is caused by injury to or compression of the spinal cord and/or arteries that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the spinal cord. The causes are categorized as either traumatic or non-traumatic.
Auto or motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of SCI, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC).

Traumatic Causes of Spinal Cord Injury
Major traumatic events are the top cause of SCI. In addition to vehicle crashes, other common traumatic SCI causes include:

Non-Traumatic Causes of Spinal Cord Injury
While traumatic events cause most spinal cord injuries, some spinal conditions and diseases can threaten the health of your spinal cord. These cases are known as non-traumatic SCI causes, and they typically cause SCI by putting pressure on your spinal cord.

Non-traumatic SCI causes include:

A common misconception about spinal cord injury is the belief that the spinal cord must be severed to result in a SCI, but severing of the cord rarely happens. Many of the non-traumatic conditions above cause the spinal cord to become compressed—and compression alone can cause SCI. 

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Exams and Tests for Spinal Cord Injury